FEATURE2 August 2021

Defining scientific research: GDPR and the EU

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How does the GDPR affect the definition of scientific research? By Camilla Ravazzolo.

Scientist looking through microscope

Here we are again: the concept of scientific research in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is once more the topic of the day. I am not whining; I love a good debate, especially when it is fuelled by the passionate stances of representatives from individual companies, sector organisations, non-governmental organisations, law firms and academia.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes, it is just a tour de table of somewhat irreconcilable positions, and it is really no-one’s fault: it is theory clashing with practice; cultures clashing with interests; innovation clashing with the side of caution; or sector-specific features clashing with legislative and regulatory settings.

This is not a scientific debate; we are not discussing the merits of pure science vs scientific development vs industrial application. It is a debate about how to protect the rights and freedoms of data subjects while trying to achieve benefits for mankind.

But really, how do you define scientific research? Where do you draw ...