The discussion of neuroscience data issues in Box 1-3 illustrates the challenges facing data-intensive fields that need to develop policies, standards, and new organizational approaches to data stewardship.

Ownership considerations influence the stewardship of research data, just as they do access to the data. As discussed in Chapter 3, the institutions that receive research grants are generally acknowledged to be the owners of the data and other “intangible property” resulting from that research.8 However, for practical reasons, researchers may retain possession of the data on behalf of the institution, and institutions may specify in policies or contracts that investigators are to serve as the custodian of data and as the responsible party for preserving and retaining data.9 Indeed, investigators often assume that they are the owners of the research data that they produce, which can create problems when they move to a different institution and their original institution exerts its ownership rights over the data.


Each group associated with the generation, use, and preservation of research data has different incentives and expertise with respect to the stewardship of those data.


Although the researchers who generate the data have the greatest stake in their use, they do not necessarily have a strong interest or incentive in preserving data, especially in small-scale projects. Most researchers prefer to pursue new goals rather than devote effort to making their existing and past data useful for others. Figure 4-2 shows the results of a survey by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Many National Science Foundation (NSF)- and NIH-sponsored projects that promised to create social science data have not followed through. Investigators typically have little expertise in data annotation or long-term database management.

This resistance to sharing on the part of faculty is changing over time, and this can be expected to accelerate as the value of publicly accessible data becomes more apparent in a wider range of disciplines, and as infrastructure for


Council on Government Relations. 2006. Access to and Retention of Research Data: Rights and Responsibilities. Washington, DC: Council on Government Relations.


For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requires that primary research data be retained for at least 3 years after the closeout of a grant or contract agreement. See

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