Data ownership refers to the legal control of and responsibility for data. Data can be owned by a person or organization. In a research setting, data is generally owned by the employing institution, even if that institution rarely exerts the powers associated with that ownership. Data ownership of research data should be outlined in an institution’s policies.
In certain situations, data can be owned by research participants. For example, data collected as a part of Canada’s First Nations Regional Health Survey (FNRHS) is owned by the First Nations communities, as outlined in the First Nations Principles of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP).
It should be noted that data ownership and copyright are not synonymous. Under American law, data cannot be copyrighted, although databases can be when they meet specific specifications. Data licenses (e.g., Creative Commons licenses) can be applied where copyright is not applicable.