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Bona Fide Research

'Bona fide' is frequently used in relation to sharing of research data, but is rarely defined.
For the purposes of NSHD data sharing the following definition (taken from the MRC guidelines) has been adopted. The key characteristics of bona fide research can be considered to be as follows:

  • An intention to generate new knowledge and understanding using rigorous scientific methods. (This includes discovery research, development and validation of methodology and technology, validating and challenging previous findings, and pilot research). And…
  • An intention to publish the research findings and share the derived data in the scientific community, without restrictions and with minimal delay, for wider scientific and eventual public benefit. (Recognised constraints include a short prepublication delay to ensure proper management of intellectual property). And…
  • The intended activities are not inconsistent with legal and ethical requirements or widely recognised good research practice.

In practical terms, a research project or proposal that has been approved by a recognised funder should normally be considered to be “bona fide”.

A bona fide research organisation is one that has the capability to lead or participate in high quality, ethical research. It will have a public commitment to adhere to recognised research and information governance good practice. (It is not a requirement that such research is the primary business of that organisation, or that all of the research undertaken by that organisation is published. Nor is it a requirement that the organisation be publicly funded.)
A bona fide researcher is a person with

  • the professional expertise and experience to conduct bona fide research; and
  • a formal relationship with a bona fide research organisation that requires compliance with appropriate research governance and management systems.