In the course of certain research studies, the Principal Investigator (PI) may collect highly sensitive and private information from subjects. Such information, if disclosed, could have adverse consequences for subjects or damage their financial standing, employability, insurability, or reputation. In this circumstance, the PI has an ethical obligation to protect the confidentiality of that data. One important tool to help achieve such protection is the federal Certificate of Confidentiality. The National Eye Institute can issue a Certificate to protect identifiable research information from forced disclosure. The Certificate allows a PI to refuse to disclose identifying information on research participants in any civil, criminal, administrative, legislative, or other proceeding.
Detailed information regarding Certificates of Confidentiality is available on an NIH Kiosk site: http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/policy/coc/index.htm. The Kiosk presents background information, Frequently Asked Questions, application instructions, and a list of NIH staff contacts. The NEI contact is Dr. Ellen S. Liberman, Extramural Activities Officer, 301-451-2020, firstname.lastname@example.org.