Consistent with the University’s overarching goals of creation and dissemination of knowledge, it is important that research data be shared and distributed openly. There may be legitimate and compelling reasons why data must be kept confidential; for instance, when its release would reveal proprietary ideas and techniques of researchers and their partners or when it includes personal information regarding individual research subjects. There are also circumstances when questions arise regarding the ownership of the data generated from research projects, with one party claiming full ownership and preventing its use by other collaborators. These disputes often result in complaints and lengthy investigations, or even litigation, with lasting negative effects on all participants. In the most deleterious cases, withholding of data has delayed students in completing their theses and receiving their degrees.
The University has the proper resources to secure and manage research data, as well as protect associated intellectual property rights, and therefore is the appropriate administrator of such data. Consequently, the rights, responsibilities, and principles that determine how research data should be handled ultimately belong to the University, and are further explained in Harvard’s Research Data Ownership Policy.