Towards a common understanding of sensitive data across regions and disciplines

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06 Aug 2021
Group(s) submitting the application: 
Meeting objectives: 

This will be the third Plenary meeting of the Sensitive Data Interest Group (yet to be formally endorsed). In previous meetings, we have scoped the interest and needs of the RDA community. At RDA18, we begin to focus on specific challenges associated with working with sensitive data. Namely, understanding how sensitive data is defined in different regions and disciplines and looking forward to how we might develop a shared language around sensitive data (e.g. developing an understanding of how different community agreed vocabularies relate to each other). 

 At this meeting, attendees will:

  1. Hear latest discussions about sensitive data classifications and how different levels of sensitivity are defined 

  2. Contribute examples of how sensitive data classifications and levels are defined in their region/discipline  

  3. Contribute examples of how differing definitions of sensitive data have presented challenges to their work 

  4. Co-design the next steps for developing a shared understanding of sensitive data classifications and levels, how these might be harmonised across contexts, and consider what outputs could be developed to address these opportunities and challenges 


The meeting objective is to focus the discussion on developing a shared understanding of sensitive data by:

  1. Facilitating the discussion on how sensitive data is currently defined

  2. Working towards a common language for discussing sensitive data classifications and levels across contexts/disciplines/localities

  3. Assessing interest in developing resources and outputs for sensitive data access and management 


Meeting presenters

Meeting presenters are yet to be finalised. We will prioritise diversity, including diversity of regions and disciplines. Total presentation time will be kept to a minimum (less than 30 minutes total) to maximise time and space for group discussion.

Meeting agenda: 

Collaborative session notes:


  1. Introduction (5 minutes)

  2. Lightning talks (30 minutes)

    • Lars Eklund (SND/UPPMAX Uppsala university), "Transitions of sensitivity: Contextual change on openness"

    • Biru Zhou (McGill University), "Support for Researchers on Sensitive Data"

    • Joerg Geiger (IBDW University and University Hospital  of Wuerzburg), "Sensitive data from the biobanking perspective"

    • Each presenter will broadly address the themes of:

      1. An overview of the sensitive data you work with.

      2. How is sensitive data classified in your discipline?

      3. What are the specific types of sensitive data challenges in your field? 

      4. What are the similarities and differences you’ve noticed between how sensitive data is discussed in different disciplines?

      5. Is your kind of sensitive data shared between regions and what are the challenges of doing so? 

  3. Discussion of the vocabularies used to understand sensitive data (15 minutes) 

  4. Discussion of the different levels, risks, and sensitivity of data (15 minutes)

  5. Discussion of how to assess and classify data for authentication and authorization governance (15 minutes)

  6. Next steps and meeting close:

    1. Next community meeting,

    2. Development of outputs around the topics discussed in this session,

    3. Defining roadmap and milestones for the sensitive data interest group in general.

Target Audience: 

Although the Sensitive Data IG has grown the international membership of its co-chairs, this remains primarily Australian. Group membership in general is quite diverse, and we aim to foster more active engagement from the community outside of Australia. Therefore, we will target RDA members from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Global South. In particular, existing members will leverage connections with the following groups to diversify our membership:

  • Social Sciences Interest Group

  • Ethics and Social Aspects of Data Interest Group

  • Social Dynamics of Data Interoperability Interest Group


We will also run a session in the lead up to RDA18 (scheduled for September) which we will use to encourage engagement from the international community. In the lead up to the session in September we will reach out to Working Groups and Interest Groups such as the International Indigenous Data Sovereignty Group and Health Data Interest Group. 

The content discussed at this session is relevant to everyone working with sensitive data, including researchers, data managers / stewards, anyone working with access and reuse, including publishers and editors.

Group chair serving as contact person: 
Brief introduction describing the activities and scope of the group: 

This will be the third meeting of the Sensitive Data Interest Group (yet to be formally endorsed). Previous meetings of the IG have focused on highlighting the diversity of sensitive data, identifying challenges faced by the community, and identifying resources for working with sensitive data. We have aimed to develop our IG charter and to foster a community of people interested in participating in the IG. We anticipate the charter being endorsed before RDA18, and we feel we have reached a point where we have sufficient membership of the IG to provide diverse perspectives (though we are continually seeking to actively engage members). Given this progress, we are now seeking to establish our first set of outputs on one of the main challenges identified by the group: developing a shared understanding of sensitive data and all the vocabularies to describe them. This will be the topic of discussion at RDA18, and will also be explored in a session leading up to RDA18 (scheduled for September). We welcome suggestions and feedback on the IG in general, proposed outputs specifically, and ideas for future outputs and activities. 

Short Group Status: 

Yet to be formally endorsed

Type of Meeting: 
Working meeting
Avoid conflict with the following group (1): 
Avoid conflict with the following group (2): 
Meeting presenters: 
Please see Meeting Objectives above