Share your data

Who Will Your Data Be Shared With?

The goal of a data access and sharing policy should be to allow as wide of access as possible - much research data should be shared with other researchers and the general public. Open sharing of data can be very beneficial (see here for a list of benefits). However, for many types of research, the data produced are sensitive and confidential (for example, identifiable medical data about human subjects, data about the location of a rare species of plant or animal), and in these cases researchers may need to require that others who want to use the data sign a waiver or answer a questionnaire. For very sensitive data, the original researchers may need to mediate sharing themselves - only releasing data to those who contact them directly - or the data may be so sensitive that the researcher feels the data cannot be shared under any circumstance.

When Should Your Data be Shared?

Depending on the type of research, different community or funding agency requirements exist for when data are expected to be made available. Most funding agency data sharing policies ask that data from projects be shared in a timely matter, understanding that what constitutes a "timely matter" will vary from project to project. Some funding agencies (listed below) have given a specific time period for when they expect data to be shared or made accessible, as a guideline to help researchers develop their policies. Many funding agencies also allow for embargo periods for political/commercial/patent reasons, but they ask that these cases are explained in the data management plan.

Funding Agency Suggestions for Length of Time Before Data Release:

NIH No later than the acceptance for publication of main findings from the dataset
NOAA 2 years after data collection
NSF Engineering Directorate 3 years after the end of the project or public release, whichever comes first
NSF Earth Sciences Division 2 years after data collection
NSF Ocean Sciences Division 2 years after data collection

What Will You Share?

Questions to consider about which data will shared with others:

  • What data would another researcher need in order to reproduce your findings?
  • Are your raw data messy and difficult for others to understand?
  • If you share processed or cleaned up data, have you documented your analysis methods well enough that someone else would understand how you arrived with the new dataset?
  • Should the data be released all at once, or in waves as the project progresses?
  • Are some data confidential or private?
  • Have you complied with your IRB protocol? 

How Will Your Data Be Shared?

Researchers have a variety of different tools and resources available to help them share their research data. The different methods each have their own benefits and drawbacks, which are shown in the table below. When deciding on methods for sharing your data, consider the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Method Benefits Drawbacks
Post data on a project website
  • Open Access
  • Broader dissemination of research
  • Requires regular maintenance by members of the research group
  • No control over who can access the data
Submit data to a journal 
  • Data are associated with the work published on those data
  • Data are shared with your peers
  • Data may not result in an article but still need to be shared
  • Depending on the publisher, access may be restricted to researchers who have a subscription to the journal
Respond to requests for data
  • Retain control over who has access to data
  • Others have very limited access to data
  • May not be acceptable method for funding agency 
  • Can be time intensive
Deposit data in SMARTech
  • Open access
  • Requires no ongoing maintenance by research group
  • No control over who accesses data
Deposit data in subject-based repository 
  • Open Access
  • Requires no ongoing maintenance by research group
  • Data are shared with your peers
  • With some exceptions, you cannot control who accesses data 


Intellectual Property, Patents, and Licensing

In addition to identifying the who, what, when, and how of your research data, a data management plan should include a policy regarding the licensing and intellectual property restrictions for the data created during research.

Georgia Tech Intellectual Property Handbook: This contains Georgia Tech's policy regarding intellectual property and patent rights for work and research conducted at Georgia Tech.

Open Data Commons: Having a clear policy or license regarding the reuse of your data encourages others to reuse your data in their own research. Open Data Commons has two different licenses that may be used with research data that are being shared openly.

Creative Commons for Data: Creative Commons has developed a series of licenses for creative content, and this site explains how these licenses can be used for licensing research data.