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Research Data Sharing and Licensing

Research Data Sharing and Licensing    

Many funding agencies and organizations, and some professional journals, now require that data be shared as a condition of grants, awards, or publication. Beyond fulfilling a requirement, benefits of sharing data include promoting your research, rapid dissemination of results, and furthering related research and discovery.

The University Library provides data services for researchers at any stage of the research process, including grant writing, preparing Data Management Plans (DMP), and finding and managing data during and after the project. Contact the Library at 217-244-1331 or email researchdata@library.illinois.edu.

What is considered data?

Data is essentially factual information and cannot be copyrighted. However, data that is collected, collated or manipulated using significant investment of time or resources may represent an original expression of the data and may be considered copyrightable intellectual property.

In general, the University owns all copyrighted works created as part of a grant or contract and works created as an employment duty or responsibility.  For more information about intellectual property and copyright consult the Scholarly Commons Intellectual Property Rights information.

Sharing Data

Sharing data can be as simple as emailing it to colleagues or publishing it on a project website. More and more researchers are submitting data to institutional repositories or data centers for archiving, curation, and access. Investigate options carefully as some repositories have their own licensing policies and guidelines while others allow you to choose.

Basic Steps for Sharing Data

  • Determine what data, database, or datasets are to be shared
  • Select and apply license
  • What intellectual property rights are associated with the data?
  • Select an appropriate license that works with the Intellectual Property rights.
  • Make the data available
  • Provide data in a user-friendly format.
  • Make it findable
  • Provide thorough and clear metadata and documentation for your datasets.

Considerations for Original Data

Be sure you understand any and all permissions related to your research. Before you share or license research data you need to know if your work is copyrightable, who holds the copyright (you or your institution), and whether or not your institution maintains licensing privileges.

  • Are there specific terms of the grant that dictate how data should be shared/licensed/disseminated?
  • Will data include private, personal, or medical information? Consider stipulations of IRB approval.
  • Will you want to request or require acknowledgement, attribution, or reporting of data usage?
  • Will you allow data to be re-used and, if so, will it be restricted to non-commercial use only?
  • If the data is the result of a collaborative research project, you need to have permission from all parties before granting license for use.
  • Beware of Attribution Stacking: repeated iterations of third party data all requiring attribution.
  • If you require attribution, consider providing citation information and formatting.

Considerations for Third Party Data or Materials

If your data was derived using third party data, stipulations of the third party data use must be reflected in the license selection for your derivative data.

  • What are expectations or parameters under which the third party data may be used?
  • What are the limitations for use of the data?
  • What permissions are needed to disseminate research findings resulting from use of the data?
  • Are there costs associated with use of third party data, and how will they be covered?

 Material Transfer Agreement

  • Materials or technology that are coming into the University for research purposes require a Material Transfer Agreement in order to protect intellectual property rights and acceptable use. (Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research)

Licensing your Research Data

About Licenses

There is a spectrum of permissions that can be assigned to licensing data for use, re-use, or distribution.  The least restrictive license states that anyone can use, reuse, share and re-distribute the data for any purpose and without attribution. In essence, you waive your claim to the copyright. Restrictions that can be added to a license include:

  • Attribution – If you allow use or re-use of the data you will need to decide if the license will require the inclusion of attribution or acknowledgement in resulting output.
  • Reporting/Notification -- You may request or require users of the data to report their use back to you.
  • Derivative Works – Will you allow re-use of your data in the creation of derivative works? With or without attribution?  You can stipulate that any derivative work(s) must be licensed under the same parameters as your data; this is called “ShareAlike”.
  • Commercial/Non-Commercial Use – Will you allow re-use of your data for commercial use or for non-commercial use exclusively?

Licensing Groups/Organizations

 IDEALS:  UIUC’s Institutional Repository

By default, items in IDEALS have no access restrictions; they are openly and freely available via the World Wide Web. However, there may be some situations when depositors need to restrict access to items in IDEALS. For example, a publisher may allow deposit of published articles into an institutional repository but require an embargo of six months before the article may be made publicly accessible.

IDEALS allows access restrictions to be imposed at the collection or item level. The individual depositor or the IDEALS community (the group responsible for a set of collections in IDEALS) is responsible for the decision to impose access restrictions.

Creative Commons Licenses – Provides a library of standardized licenses; the License Chooser is a tool to aid you in selecting the best license for your data. The most common licenses include:

  • CC Zero - Creative Commons Zero  – completely free and open for anyone to use;  no attribution necessary
  • CC BY - Attribution – anyone can use with attribution
  • CC BY SA -  Attribution – Share Alike - derivatives must honor original license

 Open Data Commons  – Provides legal licensing language for making available and using open data:

  • PDDL - Public Domain Dedication and License  – places data in the public domain, free for anyone to use and share
  • ODC-By - Attribution License  – data or data sets are free for anyone to use but they must provide attribution to the source
  • ODC – Odbl - Open Database License  – data or data sets are free to use but any resulting use of data must provide attribution to the original source and any resulting new output must be made available under the same license terms


What it means


None – Open Access

In the public domain; free for anyone to use or share without conditions

Default License


Any use or re-use must include  attribution to original source


Share Alike

Any derivative works must be available under the same license as original



Access to data or sets of data is restricted to specific groups or for a specific time period

Level 1: Restricted to University of Illinois community members with a NetID and password only;


Level 2: Restricted to a specific group defined and maintained within IDEALS