Sharing Data



Why share your data?

How to share your data

Preserving the data in data centers or repositories which are managed by trusted entities for long-term access is the most common way to share data. Other options are to share directly with colleagues via email, or collaborative networks.

In many cases, repositories and data centers will have their own policies regarding access permissions. If you are going to use a repository/data center, check their policies before constructing your own access permissions or including them in a data management plan.

There is a growing body of guidance on how to cite data sets, and groups such as Dryad and DataCite are working on ways of tracking the use of data sets.

Registering published data sets with DataCite will facilitate finding and citing the dataset. A DOI or other persistent identifier makes it that much easier for others to cite your data.

Constructing access permissions

Types of permissions

Your research group should consider the permissions you wish to use for making data available under your Data Management Plan. There are a number of important factors to consider and there may be constraints or specific rules on sharing that a particular repository, granting agency or other distributor enforces with respect to what you can and cannot require in making your project's data available through them.

This section is meant to inform you as to the options that may be available and to stimulate your thinking about what sharing data means within the context of the type of data you are making available, the culture and expectations of the field in which that data is shared, and any limitations that may exist based on your inclusion of data that brings with it certain permissions, or through your use of a resource with its own particular rules. Funders, such as NSF, will have expectations as well regarding what types of data need to be shared and while they provide researchers significant discretion regarding how data is shared, they expect a clear rationale, particularly for data with significant restrictions.

NC State University policies should also be consulted in making a decision about releasing data. The office of Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance Services can provide guidance on determining permissions for data re-use.

Permission checklist

  1. Does your research project have sufficient permissions necessary to disseminate the project data.
    • Did any of the data come from a third party source?
    • If so, did the project obtain written permission to disseminate?
    • Are there any restrictions you need to include in your permission statement?
  2. Do you need to provide access to all the data produced under a grant? For NSF purposes, data required to be shared will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management. The federal government in Circular A-110 (2 CFR 215) defines the default terms and conditions for recipients of federal funding with respect to data rights and provides specific guidelines on what research data is not required to be shared or archived. These include:
    • preliminary analyses
    • drafts of scientific papers
    • plans for future research
    • peer reviews, or communications with colleagues
    • physical objects (e.g., laboratory samples)
    • trade secrets
    • commercial information
    • materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, or similar information which is protected under law
  3. Does your data include any private information, medical information, personally identifiable information, or other information with possible confidentiality concerns? The Federal government also defers data sharing compliance for data including "personnel and medical information and similar information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study."
  4. Would the project like Attribution/Acknowledgment to be required or requested? If you require attribution, you could:
    • provide a specific citation in your permission statement; or
    • provide a link to a URL on your website so that users can find the most current citation; or
    • ask the user to contact you in person for the appropriate information
  5. Do you desire to indicate that your expectation is that attribution will be in a certain form but you do not want to require compliance? If you are requesting attribution/acknowledgment, you could use the same mechanisms as above but would only make the request based on the research user's good will. It may help to explain why you are making the request. Attribution is very important in the academic environment both with respect to building the reputation of a research team but also to understand the provenance of the results. It is also important to consider whether for certain types of data, attribution requirements may present difficulties and may negatively impact utilization of your data.
  6. Would you like to receive information regarding the use of the project data by users? If you require the reporting of use do you want:
    • user to request access to receive the data?
    • copy of publication to be sent to you?
    Information demonstrating use is often very important in illustrating uptake and validation of your research. Showing broad adoption and utilization can be a factor to feature in future grant applications and also is an opportunity for your research group to grow its network and engage in relationships that might otherwise not occur. You should seek to balance your gating of access to your research groups ability to respond promptly and reasonably to the research community. In some cases you may only wish to request that data users provide you information regarding proposed use and that they send a copy of any publication that results from use of the data.
  7. Does the project need to be the source of the project data for quality control or other research integrity reasons (such as privacy) or would the project like to provide permission for users to redistribute project data under certain conditions?
    • Not allowed
    • Allowed but no sale or commercial use
    • Allowed but limited in scope
    In some cases, certain types of data are not appropriate for all audiences. For example, drug interaction data may be complex and require users to have healthcare professional credentials in order to be responsibly utilized. This may require your research team or institution to remain the source of data distribution and the mechanisms used to distribute data may need to be more formal to protect confidentiality or other elements of the data. The Federal government understands that in some cases there may be incremental costs associated with making data available, and your research group may charge fees to recover these costs.

Examples of Permissions Language

The following examples are provided for you to think about the aspects of data exchange and sharing that are important to your research project and how you might actually articulate your expectations. Please note that your optimal choice of permissions may conflict with the rules of a repository or other preferred access mechanism for your data. You may then need to balance whether it is better to comply with the repository rules or find alternatives.

1. Unrestricted Donation
You may copy, modify, distribute and perform the work(s) or data, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission provided that you: a) agree that we make no warranties about the work(s) or data, and disclaim liability for all uses of the work(s) or data, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law [the previous sentence should be included on all data releases]; and b) when using or citing the work(s) or data, you should not imply endorsement by us.

1(a). Addition of Request for Attribution/Acknowledgment
We request that you cite our research project and applicable publications if you use our work(s) or data in your publications or presentations.

1(b). Addition of Request for a copy of Publications that used your work(s) or data
We request that if you use the work(s) or data in your publication that you provide us a copy of the publication.

2. Attribution Permission
You may copy, modify, distribute and perform the work(s) including data, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission provided that you: a) cite our research project and publications as follows [enter citation information here]; b) agree that we make no warranties about the work(s) or data, and disclaim liability for all uses of the work(s) or data, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law; and c) when using or citing the work(s) or data, you should not imply endorsement by us.

3. Noncommercial Permission
You may copy, modify, distribute and perform the work(s) including data, solely for non-commercial purposes (no sales), all without asking permission provided that you: a) cite our research project and publications as follows [enter citation information here]; b) agree that we make no warranties about the work(s) or data, and disclaim liability for all uses of the work(s) or data, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law; and c) when using or citing the work(s) or data, you should not imply endorsement by us.

4. No Redistribution Permission
You may copy, modify, and perform the work(s) including data, solely for non-commercial purposes, all without asking permission provided that you: a) cite our research project and publications as follows [enter citation information here]; b) agree that we make no warranties about the work(s) or data, and disclaim liability for all uses of the work(s) or data, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law; and c) when using or citing the work(s) or data, you should not imply endorsement by us. Please contact [research project contact here] if you would like to request permission to redistribute the work(s) or data.

5. Notification Required for Permission
Please contact [research project contact here] to request permission to use the work(s) or data. Include your proposed use of the data to assist us in determining your eligibility and to help us navigate possible conflicts between research projects. We will provide you with a short data sharing agreement for you and your authorized institutional official to sign prior to your receiving the data.

Other examples of licenses and permission

There are also licenses and permissions that are provided by organizations interested in standardizing and streamlining the exchange of information, including works that are copyrighted. Creative Commons has a number of licenses/permissions that researchers have found very useful. These include:

  • Attribution
  • Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Attribution-NoDerivatives
  • Attribution-NonCommercial
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives

One of CC's projects directed in part to data access is called CC0 "No Rights Reserved". In certain instances, this may be an option for making data available. You should only apply CC0 to your own work unless you have the necessary rights to apply CC0 to another person's work. For example, UO as an institution, or a research sponsor may have an interest in certain types of data in which case a waiver mechanism such as CC0 made by the research project would be ineffective.

The Open Source Initiative provides a list of licenses directed at software distribution and that are used in countless projects.

Open access data

There are a number of reliable open source data archives in many disciplines. The Government is a good source for such information and university repositories are growing increasingly data-rich too.

Open science

Open science (and a subset, open notebook science) is gaining traction in certain disciplines. There is not a commonly held definition for open science, but broadly speaking it is a movement to promote greater sharing and transparency in science.

Open Notebook Science is: "a URL to a laboratory notebook that is freely available and indexed on common search engines. It does not necessarily have to look like a paper notebook but it is essential that all of the information available to the researchers to make their conclusions is equally available to the rest of the world. Basically, no insider information."

Case studies and examples

Open Science Case Studies from the Research Information Network.

Open Wetware: lists labs, groups, and other resources participating in the effort "to promote the sharing of information, know-how, and wisdom among researchers and groups who are working in biology & biological engineering.".

UsefulChem: chemistry research led by the Bradley Laboratory at Drexel University, including a list of Open Science Notebooks.

Science Commons projects:



Adapted from the University of Oregon Libraries.