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Research Data Management: Agreements and contracts

Contracts and agreeing on data

When conducting research, it is always necessary to agree on access rights to data, ownership, rights and responsibilities, processing personal data, and on the management of sensitive data before the data collection begins. This ensures and clarifies researchers' access rights to the data. If data-related rights have not been taken into account in a timely manner, it may not be possible to share and open the data. Agreeing on data, researchers' rights and responsibilities is also part of good scientific practice. In addition, research funders may have conditions in their funding terms in relation to contracts, rights and ownership.

In contract research, that is, research carried out in external funding (e.g. Horizon Europe, the Academy of Finland, Business Finland, projects funded by companies) the rights to the results can be agreed by a transfer agreement. In accordance with the Intellectual Property Policy, Tampere Universities own all IP that is generated in the course of the contact research. The extent of the IP assignment will depend on the agreements and commitments of Tampere Universities relating to external funding. If a researcher wishes to use data owned by themselves or by third parties, its usage must be agreed on in advance. A transfer agreement is typically signed at the beginning of the employment, but at the latest when the contract research project begins.

Open research is research carried out without external funding.Employees own IP that they generate while undertaking open research and may offer this type of IP to Tampere Universities.

Agreeing on data

Agreeing on data is especially important in research projects. It is the responsibility of the PI of the project to ensure that the necessary contracts have been made. Agreements should be made in writing and they must be updated when necessary. This will enable that the rights of each researcher to the data are defined and that the researcher(s) making the decisions about the data are identified.

The authorship of the data must also be agreed upon. Defining authorship helps secondary users of research data to cite the original author correctly. In addition, the production and sharing of data is regarded as a scientific merit in the researcher's CV model. Defining authorship is also part of good scientific practice. It is recommended to agree on the authorship of the research data right at the beginning of the research project. The recommendation of the Advisory Board on Research Integrity on the authorship of scientific publications can be used as a template.

What should be taken into account when agreeing on data?

  • What data are to be released for further use?
  • If one or more researchers have included research data collected before the project, will this be included in the data to be submitted for further use?
  • When can the data or parts of the data be released for further use?
  • For what uses are the data released (e.g. for research purposes, teaching and studying)?
  • Who has the right to make an archiving agreement on research data?
  • Restrictions set on reuse and their validity?
  • Who will grant permission to use the data if necessary?

The university's legal services will help you in contracts related to research. The contact persons and legal counsels who specialise in the different contract types and the most typical agreement templates can be found on the university's intra. Research projects may include, inter alia, the following agreements:

  • research agreement
  • transfer agreement
  • consortium agreement
  • non-disclosure agreement
  • archiving agreement
  • agreements related to data protection and the processing of personal data
    • data processing agreement
    • the consent forms
    • agreement on the joint controllership


The rights to the data also include deciding on the license for the datal to be published. Licensing ensures the usability of the data in accordance with clear terms and conditions. In accordance with the Open Science Policy of the Tampere Higher Education Community, machine-readable licenses that allow further use are recommended. Funders may also have conditions for licenses both for data and metadata. Learn more about choosing a suitable license on the Creative Commons page.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Agreements on the IPR rights and rights of use of the data should be made before you start collecting or producing the data. By doing so, you prevent possible conflicts at later stages and make sure that your data will be accessible and reusable.

Check the short video about Intellectual property rights and data by Maria Rehbinder from Aalto University.

Data that is factual, has no copyright protection and it is not possible to copyright facts. In many cases, the data in a data management system as well as the metadata describing that data is factual, and hence not protected by copyright. However, project might, for example, use copyrighted photographs.

A database can also have legal protection (sui generis data base right, for example). A process of deciding what data needs to be included in the database, how to organize data, and how to relate different data elements are all creative decisions that may receive protection. So, intellectual property rights can govern the use of databases but also some data content.

Data can also be protected by trade secrets legislation (in Finnish)

Rights to research data may be created in three ways

  1. by legislation (e.g., copyright)
  2. by commitments (e.g., funder requirements)
  3. by agreements (e.g.,  research consortia, contract research, co-operation with companies).

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