Skip to main content

Disseminating DI for Research

What are my obligations as a researcher/innovator with regards to dissemination of scientific results in projects funded by federal agencies like NIH and NSF?

Data sharing policies related to research projects funded by federal agencies require investigators to share with other academic researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work. Data, in this case, means recorded information, regardless of the form or media on which it may be recorded, and includes:

Data management plans in research grant proposals describe the strategy for providing other academic researchers within the scientific community access to relevant data and supporting materials. This data sharing obligation is within the academic scientific community and does not extend to commercial researchers in private industry.

Do the data sharing obligations under federal research grants mean that we have to use open licensing (open source/open data) or the public domain to disseminate scientific results?

Dissemination or sharing of digital innovation funded under federal research dollars including software, databases/data, creative works and associated documentation to the scientific research community is essential to meeting data sharing obligations of federally sponsored research. This sharing needs to be at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time.

Given that digital innovations like software code, databases and creative works funded by federal research can be shared with other researchers electronically, the incremental cost is generally minimal and the dissemination is quick.

Public domain (dedication to the public domain) or open licensing (open source for software, open data for databases/data or creative commons for creative works) are two of the mechanisms available for dissemination of scientific results. There are other mechanisms available for dissemination.

What are the different mechanisms available to disseminate scientific results?

The mechanisms available to disseminate scientific results associated with digital innovations to the research community include:

  1. Evaluation licenses/shareware
  2. Academic research licenses
  3. Open licenses (open source/open data/creative commons)
  4. Public domain dedication/freeware

Public domain deduction or freeware could adversely impact the technology translation and commercialization potential of digital innovations. It also provides little to no attribution to the developers/authors.

Open licenses, like open source, in turn, could limit the translation and commercialization potential of digital innovations.

The other mechanisms that generally do not impact the translation or commercialization potential of digital innovations include evaluation licenses (generally used with non-academic entities) and academic research licenses (used with academic entities).

How do I choose which dissemination mechanism to use?

Please contact northwestern university invo if you would like to use evaluation licenses or academic research licenses for dissemination. We have template agreements that we can use to help you in the dissemination process. We are also a proponent of responsible open licensing. If you would like to use the public domain or open licensing please be aware that some amount of diligence is generally required.

Determining and asserting ownership rights (sole ownership or joint ownership or absence of ownership) in the digital innovation would be the first step. Based on the ownership, determining the extent of exploitation rights or distribution rights for potential dissemination (third-party proprietary code, open source code, associated licenses, compatibility of associated licenses etc.) Could the next step in selecting the public domain or an open licensing mechanism.

Still need help or advice in choosing an appropriate open licensing mechanism? Please contact INVO.