Public attitudes towards genomic data sharing: results from a provincial online survey in Canada

BMC Medical Ethics 24 (1):1-10 (2023)
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Abstract

BackgroundWhile genomic data sharing can facilitate important health research and discovery benefits, these must be balanced against potential privacy risks and harms to individuals. Understanding public attitudes and perspectives on data sharing is important given these potential risks and to inform genomic research and policy that aligns with public preferences and needs.MethodsA cross sectional online survey measured attitudes towards genomic data sharing among members of the general public in an Eastern Canadian province.ResultsResults showed a moderate comfort level with sharing genomic data, usually into restricted scientific databases with controlled access. Much lower comfort levels were observed for sharing data into open or publicly accessible databases. While respondents largely approved of sharing genomic data for health research permitted by a research ethics board, many general public members were concerned with who would have access to their data, with higher rates of approval for access from clinical or academic actors, but much more limited approval of access from commercial entities or governments. Prior knowledge about sequencing and about research ethics boards were both related to data sharing attitudes.ConclusionsWith evolving regulations and guidelines for genomics research and data sharing, it is important to consider the perspectives of participants most impacted by these changes. Participant information materials and informed consent documents must be explicit about the safeguards in place to protect genomic data and the policies governing the sharing of data. Increased public awareness of the role of research ethics boards and of the need for genomic data sharing more broadly is also needed.

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