Intellectual Property and Confidential Data

Confidentiality of Data

Requirements for confidentiality of your data will impact the possibilities to share, analyze, and archive your data and thus on the policies, access configuration, and security of the systems in which the data will be stored, analyzed, and archived.

In your data management plan you have to clearly lay out the reasoning and causes behind your data access restrictions. Main aspects that need to be considered are the following:

  1. Human subjects: For research involving human subjects the IRB (Internal Review Board) office at your university has clear policies that researchers will have to comply with both in regards to obtaining informed consent of the study participants, as well as for protecting their personal and confidential information. Even if personal information about your subjects will not be made accessible, researchers need to make sure that it will not be possible for the public to identify them through other contextual information that is made available. UT Internal Review Board information can be found at:
  2. Confidential information: There are many classes of confidential information such as information related to health and education, privacy, trade secrets, competitive advantage, and security. In relation to human subjects, UT Office of Research Support provides guidance and help at For example, FERPA and HIPAA regulations for education and health data respectively will affect data usage as well as the configuration of your storage system that will have to comply with specific security requirements. Also, labeling your data as sensitive could be strictly related to agreements with data providers. For example, some specimen databases will not disclose locations because the property owners requested privacy. Therefore, to plan a successful data management plan you should identify the type of information and discuss usage policies with your data providers.
  3. Data classification: Universities have standards and policies in relation to data, including research data. You may use these guidance to classify the data for which you are responsible and based on that determine if it has to be confidential, if it can be shared, and how to protect it. UT data classification standards can be found at:,7
  4. Limiting access to data: There are many ways to limit access to data throughout the research process and beyond. In some cases access limitations will be built in the storage or archiving system, in others the data may be confined to specific locations/hardware and/or restricted to specific users. In other instances certain attributes of the data will be permanently redacted or restricted according to a specific retention schedule.

Make sure to look into your research community for guidance on treatment of confidential information.

Intellectual Property

One way to think about intellectual property in relation to your research is to consider the following elements in the research project: content, data, database.

We define content as works that are subject to intellectual property rights such as copyright. Works could be images, video, software, articles, books, database schemas, etc. A researcher that is collecting or generating content has to make sure that he has license to use the content he's collecting or consider how he will allow usage of content he's created. For these cases, using a Creative Commons License will clarify conditions for content sharing.

Data as facts are not subject to copyright, although as we have explained, there could be restrictions to access due to the presence of sensitive information.

Data and content may be contained in databases, which due to their design are subject to copyright. Different licensing options for these situations can be found at the Open Data Commons.

To allow public access and use of your content and/or database without any kind of restrictions you may use the CC0 license from Creative Commons.