Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership
Good data management begins with creating a record of research that thoroughly, accurately, and clearly documents the work and evidence that went into creating a scholarly product, such as a paper, book, patent, computer program, etc. Beyond data collection, good data management also includes recognizing who owns data, when and how data should be shared, and when data can be destroyed.
Most definitions of data are very broad. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) uses the following definition in its grants manual in connection with rules on the availability of research results.
The most rigorous standards for data collection come from industry and human subjects research. Since Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which gives universities control over intellectual property created by researchers with federal grants, patenting has significantly increased on university campuses and, with this trend, universities have moved towards industrial standards for data collection. These standards focus on what should be recorded in a laboratory notebook and how a notebook should be kept. Guidelines often recommend that notebooks include:
The following style conventions are widely recognized for laboratory notebooks:
A traditional value of academic communities has been the sharing of research results. The federal government requires that data and unique resources created with its funding be shared and encourages timely dissemination of results through publication and presentation in academic venues. In the last two decades, emphases on industrial collaboration and patenting in medicine and the life sciences have challenged older values. For more on this topic, see the section on collaborative research.
Guidelines for data retention range from three years (NIH regulations) to twenty-three years (Patent Office). When no other concerns supersede, state regulations may apply.
National Institutes of Health, with one of the most complete policies on data ownership, data sharing, and data retention as addressed in the NIH Grants Policy Statement (12/03), is a good place to begin to understand the issues. Other funding agencies may have their own policies concerning data management and investigators should check with the relevant funding agency.