Comment on:

The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)

Guideline 10

Legal and ethical frameworks, usage rights

Researchers adopt a responsible approach to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of research. They comply with rights and obligations, particularly those arising from legal requirements and contracts with third parties, and where necessary seek approvals and ethics statements and present these when required. With regard to research projects, the potential consequences of the research should be evaluated in detail and the ethical aspects should be assessed. The legal framework of a research project includes documented agreements on usage rights relating to data and results generated by the project.


Researchers maintain a continual awareness of the risks associated with the misuse of research results. Their responsibility is not limited to compliance with legal requirements but also includes an obligation to use their knowledge, experience and skills such that risks can be recognised, assessed and evaluated. They pay particular attention to the aspects associated with security-relevant research (dual use). HEIs and non-HEI research institutions are responsible for ensuring that their members’ and employees’ actions comply with regulations and promote this through suitable organisational structures. They develop binding ethical guidance and policies and define procedures to assess ethical issues relating to research projects.

Where possible and practicable, researchers conclude documented agreements on usage rights at the earliest possible point in a research project. Documented agreements are especially useful when multiple academic and/or non-academic institutions are involved in a research project or when it is likely that a researcher will move to a different institution and continue using the data he or she generated for his or her own research purposes. In particular, the researcher who collected the data is entitled to use them. During a research project, those entitled to use the data decide whether third parties should have access to them (subject to data protection regulations).

Data transfer when moving to a different institution

If a researcher wishes to continue using research data they have collected when they move to a different institution, this may be prohibited by former superiors such as the group leader or institute management.

Usage might be prohibited (i.e. actual access to the research data might be prevented) because the researcher’s former working group or a related working group is using the same research data, thereby giving rise to a competitive situation. The argument here might be that, according to good research practice, research data should remain in the place where it was collected. This could then be interpreted to mean that, in accordance with the principles of good research practice, only the institution at which the research data was collected would be allowed to continue conducting research using this data. In general, the legitimate interests of both sides must be taken into account and a fair balance must be sought if possible. The question of data usage or access to research data depends less on who legally “owns” the research data – this is usually the institution where it was generated – than on the fact that the person who was responsible for implementation of the project in which the research data was generated or processed should have the chance to continue and complete the process they started without this resulting in an obviously unreasonable disadvantage to the other side.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL10 (Practical examples)


usage rights