Do You Have an Institutional Data Policy? aka. Who Owns Your Data?

September seems to be publication month and I’m so excited to share my other item that was just published: a research article on institutional data policy.

This paper came out of a question that my collaborators and I had: who owns the data produced by university researchers? We had a sense that some universities made it clear that they owned the data while the answer was ambiguous at other institutions. Complicating matters further was the question of ownership when researchers from different universities collaborate. This was particularly applicable in our case as my colleagues and I all work at different institutions.

So we set down path of trying to find some clarity around research data ownership only to realize that this is a complex question. Data ownership has many facets including: laws, copyright, funding, policy, etc. To simplify things, we decided to start by looking at what universities say about data ownership. This meant studying university data policy.

For this article, we looked at 206 Carnegie “High” and “Very High” research universities in the United States and pulled any policies on research data that we could find. We found that just under half (44%) of the institutions studied had some policy covering research data. Two-thirds of these policies (29% overall) were stand-alone data policies and one-third (15% overall) were IP policies that cover data.

The good news is that we found that the majority of discovered policies (67%) defined the owner of the data; most often this was the university. The bad news is this means that over two-thirds of all institutions studied (71%) offered no guidance on data ownership at all. With so many new requirements around research data in the United States, data ownership is definitely an area where institutions need to step up and offer more clarity.

We’re still on the path for more answers about data ownership, but in the meantime our research article has a lot more to say about institutional data policies and library data services at US research institutions. I encourage you to check out the paper if these topics interest you and to peruse all of the special data issue of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication (bonus: it’s Open Access!). The whole issue has definitely jumped to the top of my reading list!

Citation: Briney, K., Goben, A., & Zilinski, L.. (2015). Do You Have an Institutional Data Policy? A Review of the Current Landscape of Library Data Services and Institutional Data Policies. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 3(2), 1–25. DOI: