We found no studies in the United States that explored research participants' perspectives about sharing their qualitative data. We present findings from interviews with 30 individuals who participated in sensitive qualitative studies to explore their understanding and concerns regarding qualitative data sharing. The vast majority supported sharing qualitative data so long as their data were deidentified and shared only among researchers. However, they raised concerns about confidentiality if the data were not adequately deidentified and about misuse by secondary users if data were shared beyond the research community. These concerns, though, did not deter them from participating in research. Notably, participants hoped their data would be shared and may have expected or assumed this was already happening. While many could not recollect details about data-sharing plans for studies in which they participated, they trusted researchers and institutions to appropriately handle data sharing. If individuals view data sharing as an extension or integral part of their participation in qualitative research, then researchers may have a stronger obligation to share qualitative data than previously thought. Guidelines and tools to assist researchers and institutional review board members in ethical and responsible qualitative data sharing are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalEthics and Human Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • data sharing plans
  • human subjects research
  • qualitative data sharing
  • qualitative research
  • research ethics


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