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Data Management Plans

Use this guide to develop a Data Management Plan for your research. This is required by U.S. funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Ethical Issues

Data disclosure and data sharing raises a host of ethical issues. For one, if a researcher has access to proprietary information, the researcher might have a duty not to reveal that information to other individuals unless they are entitled to have access to it. Further, privacy and confidentiality concerns can emerge if data from research with human beings is shared without consulting relevant ethical and legal guidelines (see CSULB's Institutional Review Board (IRB)). Additional issues surround the excluding data from a manuscript submitted for publication, modification of images, etc.

When working with human subjects, the IRB process helps determine if there are adequate provisions for protecting the privacy of subjects and to maintaining the confidentiality of data. When a possible disclosure of subjects' responses is the primary source of potential harm, collecting data anonymously may provide the best protection. For example, a mailed survey can be constructed without a follow up procedure, thereby negating the need for identifiers.

If, however, the study design makes the collection of identifiers necessary, for example a longitudinal study, safeguarding the data from unauthorized access can be accomplished in various ways, including:

  • Remove all direct identifiers as soon as possible
  • Substitute codes for identifiers
  • Maintain code lists and data files in separate secure locations
  • Use accepted methods to protect against indirect identification, such as aggregate reporting or pseudonyms
  • Use and protect computer passwords
  • Encrypt transmitted and stored data
  • Access and store data on computers without Internet connections
  • Obtain a Certificate of Confidentiality

Everyone with a role in research has a responsibility to ensure the integrity of the data. Failure to do so has serious implications on the ethics of researchers.   Resources for Research Ethics Education provides the foundation for promoting awareness and understanding of the highest standards of responsible conduct of research.

[Information courtesy Georgia Tech's Data Management site and Privacy and Confidentiality Social & Behavioral Research CITI Training by Lorna Hicks, M.S., CIP Duke University]

Copyright and Ownership of Data

Data ownership is a key issue pertaining to research, because of the research opportunities that may emerge from the data, the potential commercial applications that might stem from the data, funder requirements regarding the sharing of data and institutional requirements. 

Do I Own The Data I've Collected?

How Do I Tell Others How They Should Use My Data?

Best practices in the Web environment include making data available along with a license that clearly sets out the terms under which the data is being made available. Without such a license, users can never be sure of their rights to use the data, which can impede innovation.