Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

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29 May 2013

Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:48 pm
by natalia
The proposed Research Data Alliance – CODATA Working Group on Legal Interoperability of Research Data (RDA-CODATA WG), will be established to address and promote the following objectives:

1) Identification and analysis of state-of-the-art waivers, common-use licenses, contracts, and legislation that enable sharing and reuse of research data and form the basis for legal interoperability of data.

2) Documentation of various examples of legal interoperability solutions in interdisciplinary and international contexts. 

3) Promotion of better understanding of the details regarding legal interoperability of data among different stakeholders in the research process through online core principles, guidelines of best practices, and related information resources.

4) Promotion of greater use by the scientific community of the agreed approaches to legal interoperability of scientific data.

The attached document contains a proposal with detailed activities and members (written by Paul Uhlir) - Latest version - Feb 15.

Mailing list for this group: rda-cwg-legalinterop AT lists DOT rd-alliance DOT org

Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:02 pm
by pwittenburg
Dear CWG colleagues,

let me make a few comments to your case statement. These personal comments are widely in line with the results that came out of a discussion session at the IDCC (International Data Curation Conference).

• The topic you are suggesting is very important, since too often any sharing and re-use is hampered by all kinds of legal (and often also ethical) obstacles.

• However, to me the suggestion is too large and unrestricted in scope. To be an RDA compliant activity it should be much more focused such as it is the case for IETF WGs.

• Also the value proposition is defined in very broad terms - so it is not clear who will benefit and which specific obstacles/barriers will be removed.

• As a consequence the implementation plan describing a serious of workshops etc. does not seem to be appropriate for the RDA goals.

• The first action point looks like a survey which is not a focus in RDA.

• The deliverables could be much more focused if you would be able to identify specific communities that want to remove specific roadblocks. This would require that community people are joining the group and that use cases motivated by them would be taken up. In that case it would be obvious a) what will be the short term goal, b) who will take profit, c) whether 12-18 months will be sufficient, etc.

Hope you can pin down the scope of the task in some way. In our community (languages) we are dealing for example with data being generated worldwide by interviewing living people with all its legal and ethical consequences. Yet we are only able to use a Code of Conduct as a basis for all depositors, users, archivists, etc, since the legal system is too complex. An improvement based on proper advice, worked out declarations etc would be great. I assume that the same is true for many other communities.

Peter Wittenburg

Re: Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:20 pm
by enriquealonso
Dear CWG Colleagues,

While Peter Wittenburg´s comments are correct, since the case statement "looks" as biraod, abstract or not focused, there is some caveats as to what he suggests when it is carefully examined because the approach he suggests, on the other side, simply might not help solving the issues that the WG on legal interoperability faces.

While other WGs look for SOLUTIONS to problems that make difficult open access and interoperability, the problems with the legal issues that Peter concedes "are important" is that they are problems because there is CONFUSION (about multiples aspects of research publications based on publicly funded research, and of the ownership of the data behind the assertions that the publications make public when articles are published, and about the farther use when other data -metadata- are added, and the farther publications through data bases and later, in another layer, through e-science infrastructures, each of which adds more data, different kind of metadadata or data reuse possibilities -such as big-data management or virtual labs..., which run on prexistent data combined with new data...) . O confusion because the classic means throough which science has advnced in the 2d 1/2 of the 20th century (creation of prestige through publications that need not to be gvt controlled but that become a business on their own logic, career advancement based on hidding the data although the investment to obtain them is partially funded by all citizens, abuse of data protection to prevet others from advancing science based on building upon previous knowledge...) are an obstavle in teh 21st (due to the extension os science beyonf¡d elite institutions or researchers, addtion of value to data thriugfh technologies -IT- that bring more vaklue to the data than the one that scientific data used to have; redundancy and duplication of allocation of public resources to the iobtainance of the same knowledge when that knowledge is already there and society should not be paying double or triple for what it jad already paid...). These conflict between core values has contributed simply to create legal confusion.

And this CONFUSION = LEGAL UNCERTAINTY (and LEGAL UNCERTAINTY=NON INVESTMENT -in effort, and money- in interoperability, inclusion of metadata as part of the research publicizing process, storage, curation, addtnl data management ventures...) as it happens in any other area where competing resources have to be distributed or simply, reallocated; legal u certainty scares off scientists and data bases as well as e-knowledge infrastructures establishment.

There are many ways to get rid of confusion, but the way the RDA process is framed makruns contrary to the approca¡ach needed to create consus (certainty) in the way and to the extent that researchers might need it. So, the WG might be forced to explain to the RDA what their problem seems to be. It is perceived as important but not well conceptualized why.

So in order to provide solutions, legal consensus on where the confusion lies and how to address it precedes any agenda. And then, the case statement, although with broad or abstract aproaches, draws an agenda that makes full sense. 

We might try to introduce more the philosophy of the RDA, by being more specific, but to the extent that the minimum requirements for legal consensus building are not left aside. If not the effort will not be useful at all since the legal community will continue to create confusion and scientists and science policy managers wll continue to have to live forever with real or imaginary obstacles.

I have tried (SEE BELOW) thus, to add through addtns to the case statement more specific analysis. It is only an attempt, probably not achieved, to help nail down issues more to the point of what research funding agencies, scientits attempting to offer science to society while at the same tiem advancing their prof careers, difgitized data bases and libraries creators/managers, e-science infrastructures establishers... might need .

But the deliverables need to create consensus=legal certainty and these are the classic tools used in all areas where law has to interact with other areas and ways of doing things. If we forget about them and pretend to get rid oflegal uncertainty in less classic ways, my fear is that nothing will be achieved and years from now the scientists will still be asking why although something is important nobody has confronted in depth the strcutural problems underlying those "important" problems.

So, in breif, I would not go much farther beyong what Paul articulated. Of course the wprk plan is a different Q. It could be a Washington DC conf. or many other different things, but a well orchestated global conf on the issue is probably one of the best ways -if not the best, to tackle with the nuts and bolts of these problems.

Paragraphs of case statement referred to above:
In other cases, uncertainty andheven misrepresentation about the law as been a substantial barrier to researcher collaboration, even though the law itself would pose no constraints to such collaboration or data integration activities.


The CODATA Global Information Commons for Science Initiative (GICSI), founded in 2005, has addressed these issues since that time as well. More recently (17 July 2012) the European Commission outlined a new policy with specific measures to improve access to scientific information produced in Europe through a Communication and a Recommendation Open access to scientific data, under which researchers and others put the results of their research (publications and/or data, for example from experiments) onto the Internet so that people can view or download the results free of charge. Open access means scientists will have better access to articles and data resulting from publicly funded research – irrespective of their or their host institution's financial means.

Despite this substantial set of publications, activities, and initiatives, there is still pervasive confusion and a lack of understanding about the issues identified in this proposal within the scientific community. This is the case even among most practitioners in the legal profession, who focus mostly on proprietary protection and restrictive licensing of data and information in the commercial private sector, and not on enabling mechanisms, such as common-use licensing, waivers, or the role of the public domain in the government and academic sectors, and on the publicly funded private research or on private publications appropriating via contracts signed with researchers of data not really owned by him/her but that the researchers need to sign in order to make public through those means for the sake of the advancement of their professional careers, an interface between the market and the advancement of research that has produced questionable results (if not direct market failures) when the global interest, the advancement of science and the prevention of inefficiencies in the allocation of public resources, is taken into consideration. The difference between the publication itself (the article, proceedings, map, poster... or other published output) and the data that that output refer to or that has been used for the achievement of the conclusions or descriptions published is still in a limbo, thus preventing the control of serious science by making impossible, due to the legal control of the data and metadata of the researcher -or the medium through which the outcome is published- the reproducibility, replicability or reprocessing of the data tha supposedly led to the scientific outcome. So accessing the content of publications in reviews or periodicals (and the reproductin .-or that of part of their content), while a huge problem in itself, is only one of the initial tasks to be addressed by the WG. 

At the same time, while the last issue may have been clearly identified, and practical solutions are been addressed but still lack solution (Creative Commons type of licenses, changes in the evaluation of scientists based on the accessibility of their science beyond the prestige of the publication and the costs associated thereto...), which focuses only on the legal issues of open access, there have been very few exercises in the real world to test whether the above listed premises on extensive use of digitized data and the establishment of e-science infrastructures are correct or simply a caveat or even a myth. The extensive use of data bases, although a possibility since recent times due to the "revolution" of IT technology, is only in the past years starting to transfer its potential in data management -both research and non-research- to the private and public sector, and it has been when this immense benefit of extensive application of research data to the benefit of enlightened decision-making (including the identification of where more data-producing science is needed), when the shortcomings of the previously statu quo model of obstacles and uncertainties have prevented, or seems to be looked upon as preventing, this technological leap forward. But at the same time, there are very few case, because very few e-science infrastructures have been put in place, where that assumption, too, has been tested, and those that have been, do not perceive legal interoperability as being a problem (??¡¡) or do they? (??''!!!). 

Representatives from all these groups therefore are proposed to be members of this Working Group (see #6, below). Additional representatives from these organizations also will be invited to speak or participate in the meetings of the Working Group. 
4. Work Plan

a. The form and description of final deliverables of the candidate Working Group (CWG)

Final deliverables will include: 

(1) a description of what are the legal problems to open access to scientific publications and the existing means to achieve it [ with an evaluation of what costs (to prevent quality loss) might it entail when addressing the market failure through these means) ]

(2) a description of what are exactly the legal obstacles that data bases attempting to incorporate research data face when going into their construction phase and assessment if those obstacles are really of legal nature rather than technical, or are based in regulatory frameworks (whether natl or intl) or in contractual clauses or related to the conditioning of the funding of the said research or the legal use made of the data prior to the attempts of incorporation of the said data to data bases (mandatory standards or protocols, ownership of the data versus ownership of the published results, citation rights, ownership of the data base itself or of the data included in the upper layer -data base or e-infrastructure; detailed expression of the right to provenance and complexity of ubiquitous written consents; deviation of results [ for big-data management tools ] because of non-retrieved data due to legal constraints in their incorporation to data bases and to e-infrastructures; 

(3) a description of e-science data bases and e-knowledge infrastructures face when attempting to make interoperable data bases which face the problems described in points (1) and (2)

While the previous point are mid-way deliverables necessary to diagnose and explain/describe the problems ( real need because of the confusion on the factual statu quo situation), the main deliverables will really be the following:

A.- A(1) an annotated summary of Principles and Best Practices Guidelines for Legal Interoperability of Data based on the assessment of points (1), (2) and (3) that focuses in very concrete legal tools, mechanisms and techniques to provide open access to scientific research and its data and to prevent interoperability of data bases and e-science infrastructures, while at the same time addresses their coherence with the basic principles in which IPR law, public funding and research advancement is based; (B2) instructional materials that describe different aspects of the issues in some detail, with short definitions and analyses of different terms and practical solutions for specific listed characteristic or typical problems, based on real life examples where open access and/or interoperability was originally prevented because of legal issues -and later solved; and (C3) a comprehensive bibliography with links to the full cited references (where allowed). All deliverables would be made openly and freely available, designated with a common-use Creative Commons CC-BY “attribution only” license, and published on several permanent websites of the partner organizations.

Re: Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:42 am
by pwittenburg
Paul (Uhlir) asked me to upload this version of the Case Statement as the one to be evaluated by the council.

I hope that the CWG members quickly check whether it is the right version etc.



Re: Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:35 pm
by parsonsm
This is an important issue and a well thought out case statement. It clearly builds from long-standing past work. I confess, though, I am still unclear on what the practical, implemented deliverables will be. The meetings and documents will certainly help build consensus in an area where it is clearly lacking but will the consensus be sufficient for implementation? It would be nice if there was a core group of data producers/managers/sharers who could be shown to implement the defined best practices. It would be especially ideal if they were actually implementing some legal tool like the CCZero waiver.

Along those lines, you may want to consider the Polar Information Commons ( as one of your case studies. I would not describe it as a fully successful effort, but it did uncover some conflicting attitudes about licenses and waivers across different jurisdictions. An exploration of Norway and Australia who agreed to adopt CC-BY for data and the US (notably NASA) who refused to assign any sort of waiver or license to their data could be revealing.

Clearly a tricky issue that needs some commonly understood and accepted practice.



Re: Legal Interoperability of Research Data Working Group

Posted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:54 pm
by parsonsm
Council has formally recognized this group as a joint CODATA/RDA Interest Group. Council and the group anticipate this Interest Group developing one or more joint RDA/CODATA Working Groups. Below is the relevant paragraph of the letter the Council sent the group chairs prior to the Launch, where the decision was finalized.

The group had active and fruitful discussions in Göteborg, has refined their case statement, and is already developing a new Working Group case statement.

Excerpt from letter from Council:

With regard to your Case Statement, the RDA Council enthusiastically supports an RDA-CODATA collaboration in this important area.  We recommend two phases for this work:

.        During the first phase as an RDA-CODATA sponsored interest group (efforts described in the current Case Statement), guidelines, instructional materials, case studies, etc. would be developed.  Best practices for adoption and target institutions that will adopt them would also be identified.

.        During the second phase as an RDA-CODATA Working Group, the identified practices would be adopted at the target institutions identified in Phase 1.  The Phase 2 effort, aligned with the adoption focus of RDA, will help to move the guidelines from Phase 1 into practice.


  • Natalia Manola's picture

    Author: Natalia Manola

    Date: 12 Jun, 2013

    Dear Colleagues:
    This is a long-overdue memo about the results of the RDA meeting in Sweden in March, and moving forward on the RDA – CODATA Legal Interoperability of Research Data project. The project was approved by the RDA as an “Interest Group” (IG), which endorses the joint RDA – CODATA activities below. More specific RDA “Working Group” activities, such as (a) the development and publication of best practices, including adoption/testing by selected case studies, or (b) the development of an implementation and outreach strategy for best practices, will be considered in a subsequent RDA meeting. 
    The following activities have been approved and we will need your involvement, as indicated below.  Please respond to the actions below by Monday, June 24th.
    1) Confirmation of your membership on the RDA – CODATA Interest Group and active participation in the subgroups. Everyone on this listserv either expressly volunteered to participate on this group during the proposal writing phase since October, or attended the RDA – CODATA IG breakout session at the RDA meeting in March. If you do not want to be involved in this activity, please let one of the co-chairs know (Paul Uhlir, Enrique Alonso Garcia, or Bob Chen—see the email addresses below). We also will be adding experts to this group, as appropriate, and forming subgroups for the activities described below.
    ACTION: Please indicate which activity below you wish to participate in. Those who do not respond will automatically get the group’s work products for review and comment and will be contacted for the broad IG group’s meetings, but will not be separately contacted for the different sub-groups, as described below, or for participation in the sub-group conference calls. Please also try to come to the next RDA meeting in Washington, DC at the National Academy of Sciences on September 16-18, where we will have a breakout session.
    2) Law review article. We are already drafting a lengthy law review-type of article that sets out the intellectual property issues involved in the legal interoperability of scientific data, worldwide. Catherine Doldirina (European Commission, Ispra) and Paul Uhlir (National Academy of Sciences, US) are co-chairs of a subgroup on legal interoperability of a Group on Earth Observations’ Data Sharing WG. We have been drafting an article with others on the GEO group and expect to complete it by the end of this year. It is proposed that this paper serve double duty with the RDA – CODATA IG, especially since at least two of the GEO co-authors (Uhlir and Doldirina) are also members of the RDA-CODATA IG.
    ACTION: We will need volunteers from the RDA – CODATA IG to actively review the drafts of the article as they become available. All reviewers will be acknowledged.
    3) Website. Paul Uhlir has a web communications staff member, Cheryl Levey, at the NAS Board on Research Data and Information to work on the website for the group’s description and work products.
    ACTION: The RDA – CODATA IG members should review and comment on the website when it is set up.
    4) Bibliography. Paul Uhlir has hired a law student research associate, Melissa Turcios, from Duke University Law School for the summer who will compile the annotated bibliography.
    ACTION:  Members of the RDA – CODATA IG should review and contribute to the bibliography when a draft is available later this summer.
    5) Selection and launch of the case studies. This will require the selection of appropriate case studies and the definition of common elements so that they all can be compared and contrasted. This will be the task of a subgroup we are now creating through the RDA – CODATA IG listserv. The case studies will most likely be in 4 discipline areas: biodiversity data, geospatial (physical observational) data, social science data, and humanities (linguistics) data.
    ACTION: Please indicate within one week whether you would like to be involved in a subgroup that develops the elements for comparing and contrasting the case studies. We will send another memo detailing the two case studies that already have been chosen and suggesting two others.
    6) Instructional materials. This also will be a task for a subgroup.  It will follow the completion of the law review article described above.
    Please provide any comments or questions as soon as possible, and let us know which subgroup you would like to join, if any.  We will be in touch about scheduling the first calls shortly.
    Best wishes,
    Paul F. Uhlir     (puhlir at
    Enrique Alonso Garcia  (Enrique.Alonso at                                                   
    Robert S. Chen (bchen at

  • Natalia Manola's picture

    Author: Natalia Manola

    Date: 04 Sep, 2013

    The RDA-CODATA Interest Group (IG) has had a busy summer. The coordinator of this IG, Natalia Manola of the University of Athens, has kept us on track. The IG has been involved in the following activities since the first RDA Plenary meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden in March 2013.

    The Group on Earth Observations Data Sharing Working Group is co-authoring a law review article with the RDA-CODATA IG, analyzing the intellectual property issues involved in the legal interoperability of scientific data, worldwide. The article is being written by Catherine Doldirina (European Commission, Italy), Paul Uhlir (National Academy of Sciences, USA), Harlan Onsrud (University of Maine, USA) and Anita Eisenstadt (Department of State, USA) are the principal co-authors and members of both the RDA-CODATA IG and the GEO DSWG Legal Interoperability Subgroup. A draft of the article will be ready in September and it is expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year. Several members of the RDA-CODATA IG have agreed to review it.

    The RDA-CODATA IG has a home page on the RDA website. A dedicated website is also being established.

    Paul Uhlir hired a law student research associate, Melissa Turcios, from Duke University Law School, to compile an annotated bibliography on issues regarding the legal interoperability of research data. Members of the RDA-CODATA IG who contributed to that product were Catherine Doldirina, Anne Fitzgerald (Queensland University of Technology Law School, Australia), Pawel Kamocki (University of Mannheim, Germany), and Tyng-Ruey Chuang (Academia Sinica, Taipei). The bibliography will be posted on the websites and periodically updated.

    RDA-CODATA IG co-chairs, Enrique Garcia and Robert Chen, are leading a subgroup that is selecting and launching several case studies. This will require the establishment of selection criteria and the definition of common elements so that they all can be compared and contrasted. The case studies will most likely be in the following four discipline areas: biodiversity data, geospatial (physical observational) data, social science data, and humanities (linguistics) data. RDA-CODATA IG members who are participating in the subgroup include: Natalia Manola (University of Athens, Greece), William Michener (University of New Mexico, USA), George Alter and Peter Granda (University of Michigan, USA), Anne Fitzgerald (Queensland University of Technology Law School, Australia), Tyng-Ruey Chuang (Academia Sinica, Taipei), Pawel Kamocki (University of Mannheim, Germany), Jean-Bernard Minster (University of California at San Diego, USA), Prodromos Tsiavos (University of Athens, Greece), Tracey Lauriault (Carleton University, Canada), and Paul Uhlir (National Academy of Sciences, USA).

    The development of on-line instructional materials for best practices in promoting the legal interoperability of research data will also be a task for a subgroup of the IG. This will follow the completion of the law review article described above.

     Finally, the RDA-CODATA IG will hold a working meeting at the second RDA Plenary meeting in Washington, DC on the afternoon of Tuesday, 17 September 2013, to work on all these tasks. All interested parties are welcome to participate!


  • Natalia Manola's picture

    Author: Natalia Manola

    Date: 09 Sep, 2013

    Marriott Hotel

    1221 22nd Street NW

     Washington, DC ‎20037

     Phone: 202-872-1500

    [Room location TBD]

    17 September 2013


    Preliminary Agenda


    Meeting rapporteur: Anita Eisenstadt, NAS, US

    09:00     Welcoming remarks and introductions

    Paul Uhlir - NAS, US


    Review of white paper on legal interoperability of data  and annotated bibliography          

    -  Discussion

    Paul Uhlir

    Interest Group website

    - Discussion

    Natalia Manola - ATHENA RC, GR

    Workshop plans


    Paul Uhlir



    Selection and assessment criteria for case studies


    Enrique Alonso, Gov of Spain

    Bob Chen, Columbia U., US


    Instructional materials


    Enrique Alonso
    11:45 Other issues for consideration by the group Paul Uhlir
    12:00 Summary of actions Anita Eisenstadt
    12:10 Closing remarks Paul Uhlir
    12:15 Meeting adjourns  









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