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Day: February 3, 2010

Financial Disclosure Becomes Automated. Disaster Ensues?

Penn State recently announced that it will be using an automated system to handle all financial interest disclosures in its research. Penn State's research budget last year totaled $765 million, so any change involving any aspect of its allocation is something to take under consideration.

Click Commerce's eResearch software will be implemented, and through the software researchers can create and maintain their financial information. This information will then be linked into the university's institutional review board, where they can review potential conflicts of interest. Think Facebook meets Big Brother (1984, not the show). But more confidential. Hopefully. The University claims that:

Given the sensitive nature of the data we're gathering, our researchers can be confident of confidentiality as we'll be using Click's Web services to ensure secure data transfer between our systems and the Click platform

I think it's a great thing that the University is trying to streamline some cumbersome processes, but I'm not sure how I feel about this. Entrusting this information to a private company's servers? Penn State has already had enough problems (i.e. hacked social security numbers) keeping its own information secure, without sending it out to a private company. Will this "sensitive" data really be as secure as Penn State claims?

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