Data Management Frequently Asked Questions

What if my data contains personally identifiable information or other sensitive information?

If your data includes information that would be harmful to individuals or institutions if made public, you should securely anonymize your data before sharing it. Furthermore, sharing that data in any form may require the consent of the research funder or of the people or institutions associated with the data. Always ask permission of the stakeholders involved before sharing sensitive data.

If you have any questions about securing your data, including data classification, Federal Contract Information, Controlled Unclassified Information, or other security and compliance issues, please contact ResearchCUI@colostate.edu.

Do I own my research data?

If you work for CSU, the answer is typically no. CSU owns your research data and you are considered a steward of the data. However, CSU strives to promote open scholarship and, unless you have signed agreements stating otherwise, you are free to publicly share your research data, for example via Dryad.

If your research is supported by grant funding or if you are collaborating with people outside the university, then data ownership becomes more complicated. Contact Linda Schutjer, Senior Associate Legal Counsel, to discuss your particular research in regards to ownership.

(970) 491-6270

What if I want to patent or sell something based on my data?

If you want to patent, sell, commoditize or otherwise retain the ability to bring something to the market, it is not in your best interest to publicly share the data related to your work; however, practicing good data management can still improve your research process and reduce your workload.

Can I copyright data?

Typically, you cannot copyright data or facts; however, you can copyright the creative arrangement of data or facts. (see Copyright and Data.) If you decide to share your data, the Libraries recommend that you use Creative Commons licenses to make it easier for others to use your data. For general information about copyright at CSU, read this Copyright Research Guide.

What is Creative Commons licensing?

It is a set of licenses that you can use to release your data for others to reuse. Creative Commons created an informational video called ‘Wanna Work Together?’ that outlines creative commons licenses. For research data, the recommended practice is to use a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) waiver whenever possible. Dryad requires CC0 licenses and has an informative blog post explaining why.

What constitutes“data”?

Data are numbers, letters, facts, statements, measurements, observations, etc. that are collected for the purpose of analysis. Data can be in any format and describe anything, qualitatively or quantitatively. Both of these scenarios are examples of data:
Scenario 1: A geneticist creates data when she performs mass-spectrometry DNA sequencing. The data she generates is exported into a text file and later analyzed with statistical software.
Scenario 2: A sociologist creates data when he takes field notes during while attending a sports event. The data he generates is in a Microsoft Word document and he will later analyze it to draw conclusions about his observations.

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If my research is supported by grant funding, should the budget and its justification specifically address the costs of implementing the Data Management Plan?

Yes. As long as the costs are allowable in accordance with the applicable cost principles, and necessary to implement the Data Management Plan, such costs may be included in the proposal budget, and justified in the budget justification. Contact library_data@colostate.edu, for assistance in data management budget justification.

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Does data management and access include supporting documentation and metadata, such as validation protocols, field notebooks, etc.?

We encourage data managers to preserve all supporting documentation and metadata that are required for someone to be able to understand and reproduce the data. All researchers are expected to be able to explain and defend their results. Doing so usually entails maintaining complete records of how data were collected. The manner in which one maintains such records and makes them available to others will vary from project to project. What constitutes reasonable procedures will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management. These standards are likely to evolve as new technologies and resources become available.

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My data include information of potential commercial value. Am I required to make that data publicly available?

If you want to patent, sell, commoditize or otherwise retain the ability to bring something to the market, it is not in your best interest to publicly share the data related to your work (unless you are required to by your grant funder); however, practicing good data management can still improve your research process and reduce your workload. Contact CSU Ventures for more information about Tech Transfer at (970) 491-7100.

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If I participate in a collaborative international research project, do I need to be concerned with data management policies established by institutions outside the United States?

Yes. There may be cases where data management plans are affected by formal data protocols established by large international research consortia or set forth in formal science and technology agreements signed by the United States Government and foreign counterparts. Be sure to discuss this issue with your sponsored projects office (or equivalent) and your international research partner when first planning your collaboration. There may also be export control restrictions for your data. Contact Grant Calhoun, Export Control Administrator, for questions about export control: grant.calhoun@colostate.edu or (970) 491-3599.

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My research is interdisciplinary and there are multiple sets of grant funder data management guidelines from which to choose, which one do I follow?

Choose the guideline with the most specifications for data management, longer digital digital preservation, greater public public access, etc. This will guarantee that you will meet all of the minimum requirements for whichever funder you choose while maintaining the highest quality of data management. If guidelines directly contradict each other, contact library_data@colostate.edu, for assistance.

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*Some content on this page borrowed from NSF’s ‘Data Management & Sharing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)’

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