Administrators and the Responsible Conduct of Research
Balancing Control and Sharing

How Can Control of Data Be Balanced With Data Sharing?

As seen in the previous section, access to research data is controlled by the institution and principal investigator. At the same time, however, the very nature of research requires that research data be shared. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it really is not. Rather, there is a balance between control and access that generally falls within the purview of the researcher.

This need for balance can also frequently be found in the negotiation of sponsored projects. For instance, negotiators are aware that they must protect the researcher’s academic freedom and right to publish the results of his/her research. At the same time, rights to inventions in countries other than the U.S. can be destroyed if publication occurs prior to the submission of a patent application. Indeed U.S. invention rights can be destroyed if a public disclosure of the invention occurs more than a year before the submission of a U.S. patent application. Therefore, negotiators must balance the need to protect intellectual property rights and interests with provisions that preserve the institution’s and researcher’s academic freedom.

Once the award is made and the project is underway, universities and other nonprofit institutions usually retain ownership of patentable inventions discovered in the conduct of sponsored projects, so they have an interest in ensuring that public disclosure of relevant research data is not made prematurely. While universities have an interest in intellectual property, as noted above they are in the business of disseminating the results of research for the public good. The balancing of those interests can be delicate and is best addressed by educating researchers on intellectual property rights and the effects publications and public disclosures. Since universities do not control researcher disclosures or publications, the responsibility for evaluating whether to disclose/share data falls under the proper purview of the researcher.

back to the previous page next page