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Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Print Email

RCR TOOLKIT
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The data acquisition, management, sharing and ownership topic covers accepted practices and procedures for acquiring, storing, documenting, analyzing, sharing and maintaining data. It includes definitions for what constitutes data, procedures for maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of data, and proper methods for keeping records and processing and analyzing data. It also examines guidelines for who ‘owns’ data as well as the legal ramifications for intellectual property, patent and copyright laws.

These are critical areas where postdocs must understand the issues involved. Since postdocs typically work on a supervisor’s project for a limited period of time, a number of questions will arise about the postdocs’ rights with regard to the data collected and analyzed during the course of their appointment. This is particularly true when a postdoc leaves that institution for his or her next position and wants to continue working on some aspect of that project. The temporary nature of the postdoc appointment also makes data management and documentation procedures very important for when the postdoc leaves and the supervisor or other collaborators want to continue the work or need the records for contractual or intellectual property purposes. Furthermore, there are additional issues involved if the postdoc’s research is funded in any way through industry which might have additional rules governing the ownership and publication of any data.

Since every discipline and every lab have slightly different accepted practices and procedures and funding agencies and institutions have a variety of requirements on data sharing and ownership, there are no one-size-fits-all guidelines for these issues. Upon starting a new appointment every postdoc and postdoc supervisor should have a frank and detailed conversation about these issues so that uniform practices can be utilized from day one and surprises can be avoided at the end of the appointment. However, grey areas and other questions inevitably arise and this is an area where a good RCR program can help equip postdocs with information and tools for answering them.

Data Sharing and Ownership


There are many different guidelines to which researchers must adhere when determining ownership and sharing of their data. These can include their funding agency, their institution or the source of the data themselves (e.g. databanks, museum collections, research subjects). An additional dimension for postdocs is what role they may play in the ownership of data that they collect while working for someone else. While some of these data may be collected in their supervisors’ labs they may also be collected at other facilities, perhaps as part of a proposal submitted solely by the postdoc. The relative role of postdoc and supervisor in managing these data, including whether the postdoc can take any part with him or her upon leaving that institution, is a critical and sensitive one.

Case Studies and Teaching Materials

Some useful articles on data management from the Science Careers series on ethics in science.  These articles present a fictitious case study and then provide comments on the case from individuals and experts in the field:

University-Industry Collaborations: Whose Data? A case study on sharing of data within a Ph.D. student's industry collaboration.

Sharing in the Sciences Another case study on "custody" of unpublished data

Chapter 9 of the textbook Scientific Integrity deals with Ownership of Data and Intellectual Property:

Macrina, F.L. (2005) Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research (Third Edition). American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, D.C.

Chapter 4 on Teaching Materials for Data Management, Sharing, and Ownership provides teaching materials and case studies for postdocs:

Alexander, M. and Williams, W.R. A Guidebook for Teaching Selected RCR Topics to Culturally Diverse Trainee Groups. Philadelphia: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
http://ori.dhhs.gov/documents/Alexander.RCR%20Guidebook.BW.pdf

Additional case studies on Responsible Authorship from the Online Ethics Center at the National Academies of Engineering http://www.onlineethics.org/Resources/TeachingTools/20357/19237/auth.aspx

Intellectual Property


Postdocs provide the intellectual stimulus for much of the research that is conducted in today's laboratories. Working with Principal Investigators who are leading the research enterprise, postdocs make invaluable intellectual contributions to the productivity of the lab. In some cases, postdocs may develop new ideas that they want to test in the lab and ultimately publish the results of those tests. Given the complex nature of the postdoc's relationship with the PI and the institution, it is essential that postdocs have a working knowledge of intellectual property issues. This should include a basic understanding of patents. This knowledge will protect the postdoc and also those who work with postdocs, including the institutions that host them. There are numerous workshops, articles and other resources available on this topic.
(excerpt from the NPA Postdoc Office Toolkit article on "Providing Complementary Skills Development Programs")

Case Studies and Teaching Materials

Science Careers has published a resource guide on this topic, which includes articles on protecting your patent, ownership of inventions and getting commercial funding for your academic research.
http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/1999_03_05/noDOI.6474817846043011150

The Penn Career Workshop series covers this topic as an alternative career path.
http://www.med.upenn.edu/postdoc/training_supplemental.shtml

The University of Alberta offers a session on Intellectual Property Guidelines and Patents as part of its professional development program: http://www.gradstudies.ualberta.ca/profdev/~/media/Faculty of Graduate Studies/profdev/profpractice/ProfPrac_IPMay_2011.pdf

Chapter 5 on Teaching Materials for Intellectual Property provides teaching materials and case studies for postdocs:
Alexander, M. and Williams, W.R. A Guidebook for Teaching Selected RCR Topics to Culturally Diverse Trainee Groups. Philadelphia: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
http://ori.dhhs.gov/documents/Alexander.RCR%20Guidebook.BW.pdf

From Science Careers series on Lab Management articles, the following focus on the opportunities and considerations in intellectual property, such as inventions, patents and other "hidden" forms of IP:

Opportunities: Intellectual Property, Part 1
Opportunities: Intellectual Property, Part 2

Chapter 11, Understanding Technology Transfer from Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2006) Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, Second Edition

Data Management and Record Keeping


Data management and record keeping practices also vary from lab to lab and institution to institution, although some aspects may also be mandated by a funding agency or other group for the purposes of auditing. An advantage of good lab notebook maintenance on the part of postdocs is that it provides an easy and low-conflict way for postdoc supervisors to keep in touch with research progress on their projects. A potential issue for postdocs, however, is the fact that the majority in the U.S. are visa holders, many of whom may prefer to keep their notes in their native language instead of English. Postdoc supervisors need to take this into consideration and establish guidelines for the extent to which record keeping must be generally accessible.

Case Studies and Teaching Materials

Chapter 8, Data Management and Laboratory Notebooks from Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2006) Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, Second Edition

Chapter 11 of the textbook Scientific Integrity deals with Scientific Record Keeping, as well as Appendix VI on Laboratory Notebook Instructions used by the research division of a biotech company:

Macrina, F.L. (2005) Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research (Third Edition). American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, D.C.

Do's and Don'ts for Keeping Lab Notebooks

 

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