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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Data Policy: How-to

Data Policies Guide

DataONE publishes a comprehensive guide to data policy in citizen science, Data Policies for Public Participation in Scientific Research: A Primer. The following best practices for constructing data policies are taken from this guide:

User Agreements

Present volunteers with a user agreement and associated policies prior to registration

Place the user agreement on a single page, with no scroll box

Provide an opportunity to print and/or save the user agreement

Offer both the options to accept and decline a user agreement

Ensure that the user agreement is posted permanently on the site

Terms of Use

Determine who holds copyright of data submitted by volunteers

Determine who holds copyright of the aggregate data set

Post the copyright permissions for individual data and the data set in your user agreement and on your policies page

Determine how you want your data to be used

Post explicit permissions for access and reuse including, if applicable, a citation to the data set or a related paper, community attribution, and requirements for co-authorship

Include attribution and license information in downloaded data files

Legal Policies

Determine the relevant legal and non-legal guide lines for your project

Indicate compliance with relevant legal and non-legal guidelines in your data policy

Include a general liability disclaimer along along  with project-specific disclaimers on your website

Consider purchasing liability insurance that protects board members, employees, and volunteers

Generate general calls for participation instead of soliciting specific types of data

Review as much content as possible before interpreting and distributing aggregated findings

Explain any review processes, including practical limitations

Distribute data documentation that includes legal policies with data files 

Privacy Policies

 • Ensure that you comply with COPPA if your users could potentially include children under 13

Ensure that you comply with CAN-SPAM if you collect email addresses from volunteers

Include a link to your privacy policy at the bottom of your home page, and each page that collects data

Explain your use of cookies

Detail your use of volunteers’ email addresses

Detail your use of any location-based data that  you collect; consider allowing volunteers to designate some locations or observations as “private” or otherwise hidden from public view

Include information on data security


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