Consent and commercialisation: negotiating the open data agenda whilst protecting participants and intellectual property

An increasing number of funders and publishers are supporting the open data agenda by requiring researchers to openly share the data that underpin research publications. Yet, the culture of open data sharing and opinions about the benefits of data sharing vary widely between and within disciplines in higher education. There are numerous discipline-specific data repositories listed on re3data for the social sciences and life sciences, but relatively few for engineering.


The Library Research Data Service runs courses on all aspects of data management and provides 1:1 advice to researchers. A common theme in questions raised by researchers is how to share data whilst protecting study participants or intellectual property. It is clear that, whilst the benefits of data sharing are understood, and generally accepted, there is some anxiety surrounding the ethics of data sharing, and concerns around the ability to maximise the academic and commercial value of the data by those who have created them.

There a number of actions that you can take throughout the data lifecycle to ensure that you are able to comply with funder and journal requirements whilst protecting your study participants and intellectual property. These are:

  • Ask your study participants for consent to preserve, share and re-use their anonymised data;
  • Negotiate the terms of data sharing with industrial and academic collaborators at the start of the study;
  • Anonymise data at the end of your study using the UK Data Service guidelines;
  • License your data at the time of deposit in a data archive or repository;
  • Deposit your data to a research data archive at time of publication but embargo access until you have registered patents, or otherwise protected intellectual property that can be commercialised;
  • Restrict access to sensitive data to bona fide researchers, and share data subject to data sharing agreements.

Funders and publishers will generally accept justifications for restricting data sharing for sensitive data, or delaying sharing for the protection of intellectual property. However, they will expect that these justifications will be provided within the data access / sharing / availability statements in papers.

If you would like more advice on data sharing you can contact the Library Research Data Service:

Alison Nightingale, Research Data Librarian

January 2019

This entry was posted in doctoral students, open access, postgraduates, publications, research. Bookmark the permalink.

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