The role of Data Transfer Agreements in ethically managing data sharing for research in South Africa

S Mahomed, G Loots, C Staunton


A multitude of legislation impacts the use of samples and data for research in South Africa (SA). With the coming into effect of the Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 (POPIA) in July 2021, recent attention has been given to safeguarding research participants’ personal information. The protection of participants’ privacy in research is essential, but it is not the only risk at stake in the use and sharing of personal information. Other rights and interests that must also be considered and safeguarded include the right to non-discrimination, the right to dignity, and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. This can be achieved by ensuring that the ethical values and universal principles that underpin the research landscape, namely equity, reciprocity, justice and solidarity, are embedded in the regulatory framework for the management and use of personal information. This paper advocates an integrated bioethics approach to the use of personal information for research in SA. A key feature in embedding such an approach is a Data Transfer Agreement (DTA) that appropriately integrates the safeguards and protections set out by our regulatory framework with bioethical rules and procedures when personal information is used and shared for research purposes. This paper thus calls for the development of a national DTA that is guided by key ethical principles when data are shared for research purposes. This paper will be followed by a webinar on 23 June 2022 hosted by the Department of Science and Innovation and the SA Medical Research Council, where the recommendations and suggestions set out herein will be unpacked, discussed and debated by relevant stakeholders.

Authors' affiliations

S Mahomed, School of Law, Department of Jurisprudence, UNISA, Pretoria; Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

G Loots, Department of Science and Innovation, Pretoria, South Africa

C Staunton, Institute for Biomedicine, Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2022;15(1):26.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-05-19
Date published: 2022-05-19

Article Views

Abstract views: 2391
Full text views: 2649

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here