Replication of scientific research: Addressing geoprivacy, confidentiality, and data sharing challenges in geospatial research
Richardson, D., M. Kwan, George C. Alter, and J. McKendry. 2015. "Replication of scientific research: Addressing geoprivacy, confidentiality, and data sharing challenges in geospatial research." Annals of GIS, 21(2): 101-110.
The ability to replicate, or reproduce, research is fundamental to the scientific process. Research combining a variety of georeferenced data is spreading rapidly across scientific domains and international borders. This suggests a growing potential for the use and integration of new and existing data sets to create new multi-disciplinary scientific collaborations. Yet, the unique characteristics of georeferenced data present special challenges to such collaborations. These data are highly identifiable when presented in maps and other visualizations or when combined with sensor data or other related geospatial data sets. The potential opportunities of collaboration may thus be constrained by the need to protect the locational privacy (geoprivacy) and confidentiality of subjects in research using georeferenced data. This paper reviews the obstacles to and potential methods for sharing georeferenced data in order to support a growing and dynamic geospatial research community and build capacity for data-intensive research across the social and environmental sciences. The development and implementation of a geospatial virtual data enclave methodology is proposed as an innovative and viable solution to share and archive georeferenced data among researchers while protecting the geoprivacy of research subjects and the confidentiality of these data. The ability to share confidential geospatial data among researchers is crucial to ensuring replicability of scientific research, and to enable researchers to verify and build upon the research of others.