Access Controls

Placing appropriate conditions on the availability of some of the data provided to you by human participants when you share these data – i.e., applying access controls that limit other scholars’ ability to view those data – can help protect project participants’ private/sensitive information. Data repositories may offer multiple types and levels of access controls for scholars to apply to subsets of their data as appropriate given the sensitivity of those data. The specific categories of and conditions for access that repositories provide vary from institution to institution.

Access restrictions that scholars who share their data via a data repository place on their data differ from those individual researchers derive when they share data “upon request” in various ways. For example, they:

  • Allow for fine-grained differentiation by file;
  • Facilitate reliability – do not rely on researcher’s availability, especially in the long run;
  • Ensure predictability – since the repository has clear rules for data access, secondary researchers will be able to predict if they’ll be able to meet conditions of access.

QDR General Deposit Procedures

Researchers who deposit data with QDR sign a Standard Deposit Agreement or Special Deposit Agreement.  Signing a Special Deposit Agreement allows researchers to apply access controls to sensitive data.  Such restrictions can be applied at the file level, allowing depositors to establish different degrees and types of access for different parts of their data project, commensurate with the sensitivity of the information in particular files.

QDR Access Conditions

Before they can access any data, QDR users need to register, which involves agreeing to QDR’s General Terms and Conditions of Use (GTCU) (these outline a set of best practices for data use including using data only for academic purposes and not attempting to identify any specific participant), and log in with their individual account. By default, accessing documentation files does not require registration.  Use of data obtained from QDR is only permitted for specific purposes such as research and teaching. Commercial use is prohibited.

The following access conditions may be applied to some or all of the files in a data project.  These conditions are selected when scholars complete the Standard or Special Deposit Agreement.

  • Standard Access
    • All registered QDR users can access the data online under the GTCU referenced above
  • Special Access
    • Conditional online access
      • The restricted data can be accessed online, but only by registered QDR users agreeing to meet additional conditions stipulated by the researcher during the deposit process.
        • For example, secondary users must submit an IRB application to their home institution and obtain approval of their project and procedures before being able to access the data.
    • Depositor-approved access
      • The restricted data can be accessed online, but only by registered QDR users who receive approval from the researcher who deposited the data.
    • Restricted offline access
      • The restricted data can be accessed only offline, via a computer located at QDR and not connected to the internet, and can only be accessed by registered users who visit QDR in person.
    • Embargoed data
      • The restricted data cannot be accessed by any user until a pre-specified date indicated by the depositor and justified with specific reasons. (After the end of the embargo period, the researcher may choose to place one of the above access controls on part or all of the data.)

Depositor-approved Access

For projects with files restricted under QDR’s depositor-approved access control option, QDR works with the depositor at the time of deposit to specify the requirements the depositor expects to be satisfied before secondary access is granted. Those are then listed in the Terms of Use metadata field for the project. When a potential secondary user requests access to the data, QDR staff ensures that the request contains a description of how these requirements are met and then forwards the request to the depositor. When the depositor responds in the affirmative, QDR staff enables access to the relevant restricted files for the secondary user.

In the event that a depositor does not reply to such a request from QDR within 15 days, QDR curation staff will make a determination based on the criteria as specified in the project’s Terms of Use. If deemed necessary in such a scenario, QDR might also request input from an ad hoc “access review committee” composed of members of QDR’s Research Advisory Board with relevant expertise. Potential secondary users should expect a final determination no more than 30 days after sending their complete access request.