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Collaboration ‘at risk’ from data protection laws

Researchers are growing increasingly concerned about a law allowing member states to decide how to use personal data in research, saying it could undermine collaboration.

Scientists and lawyers say that they are worried about the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will apply from May 2018. The regulation was intended to harmonise EU laws, making it easier for groups, including researchers, to meet the necessary standards. But years of negotiation have watered down the proposal, and national governments will be permitted to implement their own versions of rules relevant to research.

“Member states can maintain divergent standards on data pseudonymisation and impose different safeguards for the processing of health and genetic data,” said Sigrid Achenbach, a lawyer and a member of the data protection working group of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. “With all these clauses, cross-border research will face a lot of challenges in trying to comply.”

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