What does it mean that the University has ownership of research data?

Yale automatically assigns the Principal Investigator (PI) as custodian of the data.  Yale researchers provide scholarly leadership and bear primary responsibility for technical, programmatic, fiscal, and administrative requirements of the project, including direct responsibility for the collection, recording, storage, retention, and disposal of data. Yale researchers have the right to choose the nature and the direction of their investigations, to use research data generated to pursue future research, to publish their results, and to share their findings with scientific and academic communities. Yale researchers must also carry out their custodial responsibilities in accordance with this policy.

The university owns the data.  Ownership places ultimate responsibility for the stewardship of research data and materials with the institution. The University is the legal entity accountable for ensuring that the maintenance of and access to research data and materials are in accordance with ethical, legal, institutional and professional rules, regulations, and obligations. The University is primarily responsible for meeting all obligations concerning research data, and for supporting an environment in which the objectives of its policies and principles are met.

Yale researchers are expected to work in partnership with their department, division, and University administration to manage and protect the research data and materials produced at the University. The Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), an Association of Research Universities, explains it this way:

“As the grantee and formal owner of the data, the research institution is responsible for retaining research data, materials and documentation as required by its agreements. However, it will not be practical or reasonable from the perspective of the investigator for the institution to assume primary responsibility for custody. As a result, it is common for institutions to indicate in policy that the principal investigator serves as the custodian of data, materials and other research documentation for their projects and as responsible agent for their preservation and retention.”

Yale’s legal ownership establishes that the University has a right to access or possession in some circumstances stemming from legal requirements and sound management principles:

  • Should it become necessary to evaluate the data in sufficient detail to comply with laws and regulations governing the conduct of the research and to enable appropriate responses to questions about accuracy, reproducibility, authenticity, and primacy. The University could be placed in legal jeopardy as a result of inability to grant access to research data in cases of misconduct, fraud or malpractice allegations and any reputational harm to the University can also have an impact on its researchers. The Principles & Guidance document explains how researchers can manage their research data so they can comply with this requirement.

  • Yale’s various contracting partners and the federal government expect the University to maintain ownership and access to data. For sponsored projects in particular the University, as the grantee of sponsored research, has responsibility to ensure proper expenditure of funds provided.

  • Our researchers who work collaboratively expect that in the event of a dispute, the University will retain enough authority to step in and resolve conflicts over ownership of or access to data, generally by authorizing sufficient sharing to allow research to continue and to be published. Yale ownership of the data ensures that disagreements over ownership need not impede research and that the data are available for appropriate access, release, deposit, sharing, and publication. 

  • Finally, the University is responsible for anything done on and off its premises by its employees in the course of their employment and could be held liable for the wrongful conduct of its employees.

Research Data Policy subcategories: