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UC San Diego Guidelines on Access and Management of Research Data

Learn about guidelines to ensure research records are appropriately documented, maintained and retained for a reasonable time, and accessible to the university for appropriate review and use.

The collection and generation of data and tangible research materials is an integral part of any research project. Accurate and appropriately recorded research data, including materials, enables scholars to report, replicate, and refute research findings, which advances the research enterprise.

The University, its faculty, staff and trainees have legal, institutional and ethical obligations to manage and retain such records of research conducted at the University. 

Both the University and researchers have responsibilities concerning access to, use of, and maintenance of research data and research materials.

These obligations are not new and are not unique to the University, they arise from express provisions in awards and agreements with federal and other research sponsors, overarching regulatory requirements relating to funded research, and fundamental precepts of research integrity. 

University access to records of research is critical for oversight purposes, including responding to audits, to establish that past use of University or research sponsor funds had been appropriate, to respond to government demands or subpoenas, to defend research findings, to facilitate research misconduct proceedings, and to assure proper conduct of research with humans or animals. Basic guidelines are set forth in this document to ensure that research records, including data relating to research and tangible research materials, are appropriately documented, maintained, retained for a reasonable time, and accessible to the University for appropriate review and use.

Scope and Administration of the Guidelines

These Guidelines apply to all UCSD-employed or affiliated academic personnel, staff, trainees, and students, engaged in research or research-related activities at the University of California San Diego, regardless of funding source of such activities. 

These Guidelines also apply to non-UCSD employees engaged in research or research-related activities at UC San Diego facilities under the auspices of the University or in collaboration with individuals with University appointments.

The Vice Chancellor for Research is responsible for oversight, interpretation and implementation of these Guidelines.


  • “Research Data” is recorded information reflecting original observations and methods related to a research study, and documentation of such data needed to reconstruct and evaluate reported results of the study, regardless of the form or medium on which it may be recorded, that is: (i) produced under a University researcher’s scope of employment; (ii) produced using University research facilities or other research resources; or (iii) produced using gift, grant or contract funds provided by or through the University.  Such data includes, but is not limited to, computer software, databases, and data of a scientific or technical nature, such as laboratory notebooks, field notes, electronic storage media, and printouts. Research Data also includes “Tangible Research Material”, as defined below. Research Data does not include records incidental to award administration such as financial records, contract and grant records, etc.  All such records generated by University researchers, while not addressed in these guidelines, are the property of the University and may be subject to terms and conditions of individual sponsored projects, federal and state regulations, and University retention and disposition requirements.
  • “Tangible Research Material” is a tangible item: (i) produced under a University researcher’s scope of employment; (ii) produced using University research facilities or other research resources; or (iii) produced using gift, grant or contract funds provided by or through the University.  Tangible Research Material includes but is not limited to biological specimens, environmental samples, devices, prototypes, circuits, chemical compounds, genetically engineered organisms, cell lines, cell products, viruses, genetic material, plants, and animals.
  • “Principal Investigator”:  For the purposes of these guidelines, the “Principal Investigator” is the individual that has primary responsibility for the design, conduct and administration of a research project, regardless of the source of funding or status of that project.

Ownership of Research Data

Research Data is the property of The Regents of the University (see below). The Principal Investigator is the steward of Research Data owned by the University, and of any other data acquired or used during his or her research. 

The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring that Research Data is maintained in accordance with these Guidelines and other applicable University policies, guidelines, and practices.  

The Principal Investigator shall retain original Research Data on behalf of the University, in accordance with Section VII.b. of these Guidelines.

University of California Regulation No. 4 (APM-020) provides that original records of the research are the property of the University.

Acquisition and Use of Research Data

The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring that Research Data is recorded and stored in accordance with the standards of his or her respective discipline and any requirements of applicable federal or state law or regulations, University guidelines, or sponsored awards. 

Further, the Principal Investigator is responsible for the appropriate use of Research Data, whether generated by the Principal Investigator or obtained through material transfer agreements, license agreements or other means, and is responsible for ensuring that such use does not violate University contractual commitments. 

The Principal Investigator should consult the appropriate campus office regarding the use and stewardship of Research Data that may be subject to applicable export control regulations, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), or other applicable laws and regulations.

Data Sharing

The University of California San Diego supports the sharing of Research Data to advance public knowledge. 

In the interest of advancing knowledge, the University expects Principal Investigators to release and share final Research Data for use by other investigators and researchers in a timely manner, consistent with the practices of the discipline involved, and in accordance with existing University policies and guidelines, including those related to intellectual property, sponsor requirements, and applicable laws and regulations, such as laws relating to protecting the rights and privacy of human subjects.  

The National Institutes of Health policies on data sharing and sharing of biomedical research resources are models that investigators may find useful when planning for the sharing of Research Data (in all instances, Principal Investigators should consult individual award terms to determine whether an individual award is subject to any special handling of research data).

For more information, contact the ORA main desk at (858) 534-9758.