An honest broker works to protect the identities of research participants. This is most often used in health related data, but can be incorporated in any project that includes identifiable information. The honest broker de-identifies data provided to them for purposes agreed upon by the parties involved. Here are some examples of tasks an honest broker may complete in this role:

  • Receive identifiable data from multiple sources, link them by an ID, deidentify the datasets and provide them to another party. The broker may be asked to merge the datasets for the purposes of the planned analysis.
  • Review consent documentation and identifiable data to determine proper consent was documented, providing a dataset that includes only properly consented, de-identified data.
  • Manage access to data within a repository.
  • Mask more identifiable data by recategorizing demographic characteristics (such as creating age brackets instead of individual ages, or grouping location data into larger sections). This reduces the risk of deductive disclosure (being able to work back to a specific person).

At the Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility (MERC), Dr. Alian Kasabian (MERC Director) provides honest broker services. She has maintained her CITI training (ethics and responsible conduct of research training) since 2006, and is a member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institutional Review Board (IRB). MERC is a non-profit fee-for-service center, and work is charges based on the amount of time spent. Data related to honest broker work (such as the linking files) are stored within restricted use servers with security appropriate for HIPAA level data. Access to these files is limited to MERC leadership.

If you are interested in honest broker services, please reach out to Dr. Kasabian at aliank@unl.edu