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NIH Finalized Genomic Data Sharing Policy

Monday, September 08, 2014  
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The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while protecting the privacy of research participants. The final policy was posted in the Federal Register August 26, 2014 and published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts August 27, 2014.

Starting with funding applications submitted for a January 25, 2015, receipt date, the policy will apply to all NIH-funded, large-scale human and non-human projects that generate genomic data. This includes research conducted with the support of NIH grants and contracts and within the NIH Intramural Research Program. NIH officials finalized the policy after reviewing public comments on a draft released in September 2013.

“Everyone is eager to see the incredible deluge of molecular discoveries about disease translated into prevention, diagnostics, and therapeutics for patients,” said Kathy Hudson, Ph.D., NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy. “The collective knowledge achieved through data sharing benefits researchers and patients alike, but it must be done carefully. The GDS policy outlines the responsibilities of investigators and institutions that are using the data and also encourages researchers to get consent from participants for future unspecified use of their genomic data.”

A key tenet of the GDS policy is the expectation that researchers obtain the informed consent of study participants for the potential future use of their de-identified data for research and for broad sharing. NIH also has similar expectations for studies that involve the use of de-identified cell lines or clinical specimens.

“Advances in DNA sequencing technologies have enabled NIH to conduct and fund research that generates ever-greater volumes of GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Studies) and other types of genomic data,” said Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., NHGRI director, report co-author and a co-chair of the trans-NIH committee that developed the GDS policy. “Access to these data through dbGaP and according to the data management practices laid out in the policy allows researchers to accelerate research by combining and comparing large and information-rich datasets.”

NIH expects any institution submitting data to certify that the data were collected in a legal and ethically appropriate manner and that personal identifiers, such as name or address, have been removed. The NIH GDS policy also expects investigators and their institutions to provide basic plans for following the GDS policy as part of funding proposals and applications.

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