Legal and Ethical Issues

1. Why this is important for historical data management

You cannot assume that just because your research is historical these issues do not apply to you! They are important issues for data management and sharing because they can create restrictions and conditions on what you can do with data, with whom you can share it, and how you store and preserve it. There are two main areas for consideration:

  1. Copyright and intellectual property (in data itself)
  2. Informed consent and privacy (of the subjects of research)

Archives and repositories will be unlikely to accept data for deposit if there are any question marks about the copyright status of the data or the ethics of the data collection methods used, which could harm your long-term preservation strategy.

Many historians need to consider ethical concerns at some point during their research, even if they are not concerned with recent history or living people. For example, you might need to use personal papers held privately by your subjects' descendants, and you should ensure you have their agreement before publicly sharing data and materials you obtain from this research. Copyright issues and other restrictions are likely to affect many historians working with digitised sources, or any kind of 20th-century materials.

For some general resources, primarily in the UK context: