Who owns the research data?


Who actually owns the data that scientists collect? Who has the right to request to see collected research data? Do researchers bring their collected data if they start working at another institution? When it comes to research data are many questions. In this post I hope to clear up some of them.

Who owns the research data that researchers collect? The institution where the researcher work is responsible for the research conducted at the university. That means that the institution has ownership of the research data collected by researchers at the institution. According to the Freedom of the Press Act (1949:105) and the Public Access and Secrecy Act (2009:400), the institution is responsible for archiving and giving access to the research data, as well as to protect it from unauthorized access.

Can scientists bring their research data if they start working at another university? Since the institution has ownership of research data, the researcher is not entitled to bring the data to another institution without the approval of the institution where data were collected. The researcher can request to have their research data extradited using the Public Access and Secrecy Act.

Who has the right to request research data? Thanks to the Public Access and Secrecy Act, all Swedish citizens have the right to request to see the collected research data. The institution shall hastily make the requested research data available to the person who has requested it. The exception is if the requested data are classified. In such cases, the university deny the request.

When is research data classified? Research data concerning for example study participants’ health or sex life, psychological studies, or health condition and personal circumstances may be classified. The fact that a document is classified means that not everyone has the right to request the data, and that the institution may deny a request to access it.

What is a public document? Any text, image, or other recording that can be read, listened to, or otherwise comprehended only using technical aids is defined as a document (Freedom of the Press Act (1949:105)). Any document held by a public authority, or received and prepared by an authority, is classified as a public document. Virtually all research documents, in the form of surveys and questionnaires, video and audio playback and more are considered public documents, and as long as they are not classified, anyone can make a request to access them.

Kristoffer Karlsson