The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and new Data Protection Act come into force on 25 May. Both apply in the UK and will influence research involving personal data. So what’s changing and how should you, as a researcher, prepare? Sarah Dickson, Head of the MRC Regulatory Support Centre, is here to help.
What is GDPR?
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with the new UK Data Protection Act, will govern the processing (holding or using) of personal data in the UK.
Although the new regulations haven’t been designed specifically for research, we’ll need to make some changes to research practice. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK regulator. The Health Research Authority (HRA), in collaboration, is providing official guidance for people working in health and social care research. We‘re working with both organisations.
Reproducibility isn’t something that can be solved without considering the bigger research picture. So as part of efforts to improve the quality of research, we’ve collected tips and resources – relevant to each stage of the research process – from across the MRC community to help. Isabel Baker reports.
Methods are us
Good science needs good methods. Good methods ensure that health research and policy are built on the best possible evidence. Using robust, bullet-proof methods that are reliable and repeatable can also improve efficiency. Efficiency is important, as it’s not just taxpayers’ money at stake; valuable samples from humans and animals can often be used only once, and time donated by volunteers is precious.
Hundreds of thousands of biological samples such as blood, urine and tissue blocks are kept in research institutions and hospitals across the UK. Within them may lie the answers to some of the biggest questions in medical research. Getting the best out of samples relies on donors understanding what they may be used for and researchers feeling confident about when they can use and share them. Here Professor James Ironside, Professor of Clinical Neuropathology at the University of Edinburgh, tells us about new MRC guidance on the practicalities and ethics of using biological samples.
“It’s better not to restrict the possible use of the sample because by restricting it you’re increasing the chance that it’ll go to waste. You want the highest probability that something good will come from it.”
Those are the words of a patient surveyed about the public’s views on the use of biological samples in medical research . So how do we go about increasing the chances that samples will be useful?
Samples of human biological material have always been crucial to medical research, but as we move into an era in which huge amounts of data can be analysed easily, getting the best out of each and every sample is becoming more important than ever. Read more