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Research Data Management

This guide offers guidance and resources for managing research data in any discipline.

Data Rights and Ownership

Copyright symbol surrounded by a lightbulbTrade secrets, patents, copyrights, and special or "sui generis" database rights (in Europe and South Korea) are forms of intellectual property that could impact data sharing.

Trade secrets, usually owned by the employer, may be protected by confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements.

Patent applications are usually filed under the name of the inventor(s) but patent rights may be assigned to another party, such as an employer. Patent protection may impact data sharing in cases where data sharing could prevent a right to a patent by disclosing an invention or by providing information that could make the invention obvious. It is also possible that a patent could claim steps involved with sharing or reusing for the data.  Also be aware that data supporting your patent should be retained for the life of the patent, usually 20 years from the filing date.  In the case of a patent dispute, the data may be needed to prove the validity of the patent.

Copyrights are initially owned by the creator or a team of creators and may be transferred. While facts are not copyrightable in the US, an original arrangement of facts could be protected by copyright. In addition, software or code used with the data may also have copyright protection.

Special or "sui generis" database rights usually belong to data aggregators or repositories as opposed to individuals or teams. These rights apply to databases created or maintained within the borders of European Union member sates and South Korea.

Research data ownership can be ambiguous because research requires many resources coming from various stakeholders. For this reason, be aware of funder or journal data sharing policies and UVA data ownership policies. Funder and journal data policies usually require sharing of data and other research products supporting a publication although sensitive data is an exception.

If you have specific concerns about meeting data sharing obligations, contact your funder or journal. An example of such a situation could be that you need to meet funder data sharing requirements, but you intend to patent a process involving your research data, which could affect the timing of your data submission or limit data access.

(The Noun Project image above is by Arthur Shlain under a CC BY 3.0 Attribution license.)

An intellectual property primer focused on data, a software copyright guide, and University ownership policies concerning copyrightable material, research records, and patenting are indicated below.

How Long Should You Retain Your Data?

A common question among researchers is "How long should I retain my data after the completion of a study?" There is no definitive answer to this question, though a typical response is "as long as possible." More specific answers are laid out in regulations and policies at the federal, institutional, and disciplinary levels. Research sponsors and funders may also have data retention requirements.

Please note that some of these policies and regulations apply not only to research data but to the broader category of research records, including financial records and other supporting documents.

Retention policy summary

Type of data or record Minimum retention period Source of policy or regulation
UVA research datasets Retain until reference/research value ends UVA Policies RES-002 and IRM-017, plus associated retention schedules. Select Research under the Schedule Category and click Apply to retrieve Research: Data Sets.
Federally funded research data and records Three years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report or quarterly or annual financial report 2 C.F.R. Part 200
Health information data and records Six years for data and records containing health information protected under HIPAA 45 C.F.R. Part 164
IRB records Three years after completion of the research 45 C.F.R. Part 46 AKA the Common Rule
NIH-funded research data and records Three years from the submission date of the federal financial report NIH Grants Policy Statement Section 8.4.2
NSF-funded research data and records Three years from grant financial closeout as described in PAPPG Chapter VII.E, except as noted in 2 CFR §200.334 NSF Grant General Conditions (GC-1)

It is important to be familiar with all the requirements and expectations for data and record retention that apply to your research project. At a minimum, aim to retain data and records for three years after the completion of a project, and employ due diligence to gain awareness of and understand more exacting standards that may apply due to institutional, funder, or other policies.