U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Ethical Data Sharing in Forensic Research

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Synergy Volume: 6 Dated: 2023 Pages: 100322
Date Published
2 pages

This article discusses issues surrounding ethical data sharing in forensic research and provides guidelines for upholding ethical standards.


This publication proposes guidelines to provide a stronger infrastructure to protect victim privacy. Crime labs and law enforcement agencies are stewards over sensitive information and must ensure victims are protected. Anonymizing data, releasing a minimal subset of the data, vetting researchers, and enforcing IRB approval will improve current processes. Protecting human research participants is paramount in all scientific fields. In biomedical research, extensive policies and regulations protect the privacy of human subjects. Centralized protected databases exist for researchers to access anonymized data. These safeguards are not as extensive or regulated for academic research in the forensic sciences. Practices like those used in the biomedical field should be implemented by crime labs and police agencies to protect victim privacy. In biomedical research, robust infrastructure protects the privacy of human research participants. In the United States, a centralized protected database does not exist for criminal data, likely due to the decentralized nature of data within the criminal justice system. As such, crime labs within state or municipal jurisdictions do not necessarily participate in a nationalized data warehouse. Therefore, academic collaborators often work directly with a local crime lab or law enforcement agency to obtain data. Currently, enforced standards for ensuring victim privacy in this decentralized data environment in forensic science do not exist. All human data needs to be rigorously protected, regardless of the scientific domain. The authors call on crime labs and law enforcement agencies to maintain victim privacy and be proactive and protective data stewards through strict implementation of the practices detailed in this publication. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023