Frequently Asked Questions about UC's Research Data Policy


FAQs on the Definition of Research Data
FAQs on The Regents' Ownership of Research Data
FAQs on Research Data Management and Retention
Other Questions

FAQS on the Definition of Research Data

  1. Do University of California Research Data include data generated by any non-University party?

While data generated by non-UC parties may be Research Data, UC does not, in this Policy, assert ownership over such data, unless it has been: 1) modified by a University Researcher within the course and scope of their assigned or assumed role; 2) generated using University Research Facilities; 3) transferred to the University by contract, grant or law; or 4) generated using funds provided by or received through the University.

University Research Facilities means University research premises or resources dedicated to research that (a) are provided by the University for performing research, and (b) are more than only general campus facilities (e.g., libraries, meeting rooms) and ordinary business office facilities such as office work premises, telephone, or Internet access. However, situations in which individuals use an approved recharge facility/equipment on behalf of an external party who is/are paying an approved external user fee are outside the scope of the Policy. Please see FAQ #2 below for further information.

  1. How does this Policy affect work conducted in University Research Facilities, such as Core Research Facilities, where the University is making its facilities or services available to those outside the University?

Research Data created by or at the direction of University Researchers or Principal Investigators during the course of University Research remain the property of the Regents of the University of California, unless specifically agreed otherwise by the University under sponsorship or other related agreements. Research Data generated by or at the direction of non-University parties using University Research Facilities performing fee-for-service work or under specific University agreements fall outside the scope of this Policy.

  1. Do Research Data include administrative records related to a research project? How long do administrative records need to be maintained?

Research Data do not include administrative records incidental to award administration such as financial records, contract and grant records, or records related to institutional reviews and approvals, such as IACUC or IRB review. While such administrative records generated by University Researchers are not included in the definition of Research Data under this Policy, as records, they are the property of the University and may be subject to terms and conditions of individual sponsored projects, federal and state regulations, other University policies and University retention and disposition requirements.

Administrative records should be retained for as long as designated in the UC Records Retention Schedule. All records pertaining to pending, foreseeable or ongoing litigation; an investigation, an ongoing audit, or a request for records, cannot be destroyed until these actions have been completed or resolved.

  1. Under this Policy, do Research Data include data generated in the performance of a clinical trial or clinical research study including UC Health systems hospitals and outpatient clinics?

Clinical trial data generated by Researchers using University-administered research funding for clinical studies, regardless of where the information or material was generated (e.g., hospital or clinic), are considered Research Data under this Policy. Administrative documents, regardless of funding, such as patient source documents and medical records created in the course of clinical care are the property of the University along with other types of administrative records (see FAQ # 3 above) although they are not considered Research Data.

  1. Do Research Data include scholarly works?

Research Data do not include scholarly works. Scholarly works has the same meaning as "Scholarly & Aesthetic Works" under the University of California's Copyright Ownership Policy (PDF). While the University of California Research Data Policy (PDF) applies to all Research Data created during the course of University Research, unless specifically agreed otherwise by the University under sponsorship or other related agreements, it should not impede Researchers' ability to create scholarly works. This Policy also does not change current copyright and patent policies, which also apply to University Research.

  1. Are Research Data stored on personal devices property of The Regents of the University of California?

Research Data are the property of The Regents of the University of California regardless of the medium or where the Research Data is collected or stored. This includes Research Data that are collected or stored on personal devices. Note, however, that each campus may have its own policies on the use of personal devices.

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FAQs on The Regents' Ownership of Research Data

  1. The UC Research Data Policy states that "the Regents of the University of California retain ownership of Research Data created by or at the direction of University Researchers or Principal Investigators during the course of University Research, unless specifically agreed otherwise by the University under sponsorship or other related agreements." Under what circumstances do exceptions to the Regents' ownership apply? (Updated December 2022)

The University has a commitment, which stems from its obligation as a public educational institution, to advance knowledge, to educate students, and to serve the economic and cultural needs of society. In meeting these commitments, the University must ensure that agreements with external parties do not restrict the ability of the University and its researchers to continue to use University-generated research results, data, University developed intellectual property and tangible research products in the pursuit of i) continuing research at the University, ii) collaborations with scientists at other academic and non-profit institutions, or iii) future sponsored research projects. In particular, research-related agreements with the University should not inhibit the University’s ability to pursue future research sponsorship opportunities. As such, the University maintains ownership of Research Data in almost all instances, but recognizes that there may be rare circumstances when ownership of Research Data by the Regents is precluded by law (including tribal law), federal funder terms of sponsorships, or other University sanctioned arrangements. These situations are considered carefully on a case-by-case basis. 

  1. What are the benefits to The Regents of the University of California owning Research Data?

There are many benefits to The Regents of the University of California owning Research Data and making that fact explicit in a policy document. First, it shows the University's commitment to value Research Data as an institutional asset. The Regents' ownership of Research Data also facilitates the University's ability to promote its mission and to carry out its responsibilities, including:

  • Accepting extramural awards, which require the University to accept responsibility for compliance with record maintenance, research continuation, and establishing a flow of accountability;
  • Sharing Research Data without interference from entities that do not share UC's mission;
  • Providing third parties access or rights to Research Data; and
  • Taking legal action to protect University Researchers' continued access to Research Data.

At the same time, the University recognizes that researchers provide scholarly leadership pertaining to Research Data, including the responsibility for fulfilling technical, programmatic, fiscal, and administrative requirements of research projects, including direct responsibility for the collection, recording, managing, retention, and disposal of Research Data. University researchers have the right to choose the nature and the direction of their investigations, to use Research Data they generated or collected in the course of their University Research to pursue future research, to publish their results, and to share their findings with scientific and academic communities.

  1. Does this Policy change pre-existing policies of UC?

Ownership of Research Data by The Regents of the University of California is a long-standing precept originally articulated in Regulation 4 (Academic Personnel Manual 020 (PDF)) which states, "Notebooks and other original records of the research are the property of the University." Regulation 4 was issued in 1958 and is still in effect. This Policy clarifies that The Regents of the University of California own Research Data generated during the course of University Research, sets out responsibilities of University Researchers, Principal Investigators, and Vice Chancellors for Research regarding management of Research Data, and provides guidance with respect to procedures when a researcher leaves the University. 

This Policy does not change the fact that Principal Investigators and University Researchers have the academic freedom to make decisions about Research Data they use in the course of doing University Research. University Researchers continue to determine the use of Research Data, subject to legal requirements, policies, and the terms and conditions of sponsored awards. In addition, University Researchers continue to have copyright rights to their publications consistent with UC's Copyright Policy.

This Policy is designed to complement, not supersede, other policies related to research data, including (but not limited) to policies regarding the protection of human subjects, HIPAA, information security, research integrity, intellectual property, financial management, and record retention.

  1. What are the reasons for having this Policy?

The Policy sets forth the flow of accountability over Research Data, such that researchers, as custodians of the Research Data, are responsible to the institution for the stewardship of Research Data and the University is ultimately responsible to its research sponsors. The Policy ensures that appropriate stewardship of Research Data is carried out so that researchers' rights are protected and the University has authority to resolve disputes and can carry out investigations, for example, in the event of allegations of research misconduct. The Policy also allows for the continuity of University Research, particularly in the event where a researcher leaves the University or is no longer able to carry out their responsibilities.

Lastly, UC conducted a systemwide audit during the 2019-20 fiscal year examining the issue of undue foreign influence. The audit report (PDF) noted, "It is critical that the University appropriately safeguard pre-publication research data and ensure its integrity and security." The audit report calls upon the University to finalize the UC Research Data Policy in order to consistently protect research data across the UC system. The University of California Research Data Policy (PDF) was issued on August 9, 2022, with an effective date of July 15, 2022.

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FAQs on Research Data Management and Retention

  1. Does the transfer of Research Data to another institution allow for the continued use of University equipment or software programs?

Permission to transfer Research Data after separation by the Principal Investigator or any other Researcher does not imply a right to transfer or continue to use equipment or software programs used in connection with the research project. Permission to transfer or to continue to use equipment or software programs must be separately obtained from the applicable school, department, or center, and must be documented in accordance with campus requirements before any equipment or software programs may continue to be used or may be transferred. 

  1. Where can Researchers go to get help with managing and publishing Research Data?

UC campus and systemwide groups, including UC libraries, Research IT, and others provide extensive services and advice regarding data management, data publication, and data curation. Across the UC, there are unique offerings designed to meet the local needs of different research communities. Campus-specific and systemwide resources are available to help researchers manage Research Data effectively and meet the standards of funding organizations and the University.

 These resources include:

  • California Digital Library:
    • All UC researchers have access to the DMPTool, which provides a wizard for creating an optimal data management plan that complies with funder requirements. The application also has direct links to funder policies, help text for answering questions, and resources for best practices surrounding research data management.
    • Support Your Data provides a framework for research data management best practices across a research project's lifecycle so to ensure optimal reuse of that data.
    • The University of California has a partnership with the multidisciplinary repository, Dryad, and all UC researchers may submit Research Data to be published, made publicly available, and archived at no cost. 
  1. Does posting Research Data to a repository comply with the Policy to retain Research Data?

Repositories are a great option for depositing Research Data that may be made publicly available (or with restrictions). They also ensure long-term archiving and access to Research Data. Cloud-based services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and AWS are not considered repositories and do not meet the requirements for long-term secure preservation of Research Data. 

If your field has standards around where data are held (e.g., NCBI repositories like Genbank), deposit your Research Data in accordance with field best practices. If your field does not have standards around where Research Data may be stored, use generalist data repositories. The University of California has a partnership with the generalist repository, Dryad, and all University Researchers may submit Research Data to be publicly available and archived here at no cost. All UC datasets submitted to Dryad are also afforded long-term preservation in Merritt (UC's preservation repository). Consult with your local IRB, IT security office, department, or other local offices about any ethical or legal considerations that may apply to particular types of Research Data. 

  1. How long should Research Data be retained?

Recommended and required retention periods differ across disciplines, data types, funding agencies, applicable laws and regulations, and publishers. Researchers are encouraged to consult with a data librarian at their campus as well as other local and systemwide resources to determine if a recommended time period exists for Research Data. 

  1. Under what license should researchers share Research Data?

Research Data that is not subject to ethical or legal restrictions may be made openly available under a Creative Commons license. Refer to UC Office of Scholarly Communication's blog post for a detailed review of licensing options for Research Data.

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Other Questions

  1. When are students considered University Researchers?

Students are considered University Researchers under the Policy when:

  1. They participate in the design, conduct, or reporting of a Principal Investigator’s research project; or
  2. They are otherwise involved in the design, conduct, or reporting of University Research because their research:
    • Uses University resources, and or/
    • Is funded by or through the University (e.g., through grants, contracts, or gifts awarded to or through the University).

As is the case with other University Researchers, the Regents generally owns Research Data generated by student University Researchers in the course of University Research. But if students are solely performing research as a part of their coursework or conducting independent scholarship activities, and do not use University resources or funding that comes through the University to conduct that research, then the Research Data they generate is not owned by the Regents. Receipt and administration by the University of extramural fellowship funds to offset students’ personal expenses while they conduct research for degree-advancement purposes is support for the students, not the research they are conducting. Thus, the research such students are conducting is not considered University Research under the Policy unless other relevant factors apply.

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