Science Policy
day one project

Advance open science through robust data privacy measures

02.09.24 | 4 min read | Text by Alyssa Columbus

In an era of accelerating advancements in data collection and analysis, realizing the full potential of open science hinges on balancing data accessibility and privacy. As we move towards a more open scientific environment, the volume of sensitive data being shared is swiftly increasing. While open science presents an opportunity to fast-track scientific discovery, it also poses a risk to privacy if not managed correctly.

Building on existing data and privacy efforts, the White House and federal science agencies should collaborate to develop and implement clear standards for research data privacy across the data management and sharing life cycle.


Federal agencies’ open data initiatives are a milestone in the move towards open science. They have the potential to foster greater collaboration, transparency, and innovation in the U.S. scientific ecosystem and lead to a new era of discovery. However, a shift towards open data also poses challenges for privacy, as sharing research data openly can expose personal or sensitive information when done without the appropriate care, methods, and tools. Addressing this challenge requires new policies and technologies that allow for open data sharing while also protecting individual privacy.

The U.S. government has shown a strong commitment to addressing data privacy challenges in various scientific and technological contexts. This commitment is underpinned by laws and regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the regulations for human subjects research (e.g., Code of Federal Regulations Title 45, Part 46). These regulations provide a legal framework for protecting sensitive and identifiable information, which is crucial in the context of open science.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has spearheaded the “National Strategy to Advance Privacy-Preserving Data Sharing and Analytics,” aiming to further the development of these technologies to maximize their benefits equitably, promote trust, and mitigate risks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) operate an internal Privacy Program, responsible for protecting sensitive and identifiable information within NIH work. The National Science Foundation (NSF) complements these efforts with a multidisciplinary approach through programs like the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, aiming to develop new ways to design, build, and operate cyber systems, protect existing infrastructure, and motivate and educate individuals about cybersecurity.

Given the unique challenges within the open science context and the wide reach of open data initiatives across the scientific ecosystem, there remains a need for further development of clear policies and frameworks that protect privacy while also facilitating the efficient sharing of scientific data. Coordinated efforts across the federal government could ensure these policies are adaptable, comprehensive, and aligned with the rapidly evolving landscape of scientific research and data technologies.


To clarify standards and best practices for research data privacy:

To ensure best practices are used in federally funded research:

To catalyze continued improvements in data privacy technologies:

To facilitate inter-agency coordination:

To learn more about the importance of opening science and to read the rest of the published memos, visit the Open Science Policy sprint landing page.