Ownership of Data

Research Data and other records of University Research belong to the University, except in the unusual instance when such ownership is precluded by the specific terms of a sponsorship or other agreement.  Both the University and the principal investigator have rights and responsibilities with respect to access to, and use and maintenance of, original Research Data as described in Columbia's Guidance on Retention of Research Data. For more information on data retention responsibilities, visit the Data Retention Webpage.

The University’s Statement of Policy on Proprietary Rights in the Intellectual Products of Faculty Activity provides that unless it has specifically waived its rights, the University holds the intellectual property rights to patentable inventions and discoveries and any associated technology that result primarily from the use of its facilities or from the activity of its officers while engaged in its service.

Data Stewardship

The PI is responsible for:

  • Identifying, collecting, managing and retaining Research Data as custodian for the University;
  • Ensuring that sufficient records are kept to document the experimental methods and accuracy of data collection as well as the methods and accuracy of data interpretation;
  • Adopting an orderly and dated system of Research Data organization;
  • Communicating the chosen system of data organization to all members of his/her research team, including appropriate administrative personnel;
  • Complying with sponsor requirements regarding data access and retention; and
  • Complying with the University’s rules on the ownership of data associated with inventions or tangible research property that the University wishes to commercialize.
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When an individual other than the PI who has been involved in a University Research project leaves the University, in general, he/she may take copies of Research Data for any project on which he/she worked, subject to agreement by the PI and any applicable sponsor restrictions.  Original Research Data, however, must be retained at the University by the PI.

When a PI leaves the University, and a University Research project is to be moved to another institution, original Research Data may be transferred only with the approval of:

  1. the applicable school, department or center;

  2. the PI’s new institution, pursuant to a written agreement between the University and such institution that guarantees: (a) such institution’s  acceptance of custodial responsibilities for the Data and (b) the University’s access to the Data as necessary;

  3. any sponsor that requires prior approval.

The University may refuse to permit the transfer of original Research Data for any reason it deems appropriate, may impose conditions on such transfer or may require the PI to leave copies of the Research Data with the University.  In addition, other University investigators associated with a collaborative research project may make copies of Research Data prior to a permitted transfer by the PI, unless restricted by the specific terms of an applicable agreement with the sponsor of the research.

When the University permits a PI to leave the University with original Research Data, he/she must hold the Research Data in trust for the University.  A departing PI must return the Research Data to the University if requested.  In addition, such Research Data must be available to external sponsors, designated governmental officials and other University investigators who are collaborators with the departing PI.

Any disputes with respect to access to Research Data shall be resolved in the first instance by the applicable department chair or center director, and if not so resolved, by the EVPR or, with respect to research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center, the Senior Vice Dean for Research

The University has the right of access to Research Data arising from all University Research, regardless of the location of the PI.

When necessary to ensure appropriate access, the University has the option of taking physical custody of the Research Data.

The University expects PIs to make Research Data available to other researchers both within and outside of the University who may wish to use such Data, as appropriate and in accordance with sponsor mandates with respect to public access to Research Data. Visit the Public Access Mandates Webpage for more information.

Other University investigators associated with a collaborative research project may have the need to review records of Research Data in the custody of the PI for the project.  Research Data must be available to such investigators, when such access is appropriate.  Research Data must be available to representatives of external sponsors of the research or designated governmental officials, when such access is appropriate.