Deciding access levels to research data

Guidance on whether to make research data open access or restricting access.

Deciding levels of access to data can be difficult if there are commercial, ethical, or sensitivity considerations. It is vital that any data which is preserved or shared aligns with the initial informed consent, contract, or agreements that were in place at the start of a project, unless subsequent permissions have been gained.

Any personal or sensitive data which is to be preserved or shared must also adhere to the legal requirements of the Data Protection Act (1998).

It is the UWE Bristol project manager's responsibility to decide if data needs to be retained, made available for re-use, or securely disposed of. UWE Bristol's research data security guidance provides the institutional-level framework to assist with the decision-making process.

If research data is to be retained, it is possible to do so under three main levels of access, which should be discussed with the appropriate data respository:

Open access

Metadata and data can be deposited with a data repository, and made available for re-use under licence.

Restricted access

Metadata is openly available, but data can only be accessed by bona fide researchers, under certain prescribed conditions, and for particular uses under licence.

Controlled/closed access

Metadata is openly available, but the research data is not available for re-use.

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