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Guide for Data Use Agreements

Purpose of this guide is to help researchers navigate requirements to acquire data

General information

So you have been given a data use agreement ... what should you do?
What is a Data Use Agreement?

A Data Use Agreement (DUA) is a legally binding agreement intended to at least DEFINE the Data, the TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE USE of the Data and the RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE PARTIES related to the use of the Data.

When one is preparing to access a dataset from an outside source, the first thing that needs to be completed is the Data Use Checklist.The purpose of this checklist is to assure that the pending DUA is routed to the appropriate area for review.

Data Use Agreements: General Steps

Start the process as soon as you can!

Broadly, the process of finalizing your DUA can be a complex process with many parties involved and may take significant time.  Simple negotiations can take may weeks and more complex many months.


Step one: Is your project considered Human Subject Research or does the contract require a response from Penn State's Human Subject Review Board?

Step two: if you are using data from a provider, you will need to get approval for the contract

Step three: what type of secure technology and working spaces are required to use the data?

Purpose of this guide: to help researchers navigate requirements for collecting your own sensitive data or using restricted data provided by a federal agency, foundation, or other entity.

Restricted Data

What is restricted data?
Restricted data about human subjects are sensitive pieces of personal information that could cause harm to people or property if they end up in the wrong hands. You may want to work with restricted data because they could help you answer more precise research questions than public data could. Public data hide sensitive information and provide less detail.
Restricted datasets may include information like:
  • Dates of birth
  • Social security numbers
  • Addresses (zip codes & counties)
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political beliefs


Who can get access to restricted data?


The principal investigator must be a faculty member or senior researcher, but students may sometimes have access to data as Research Staff under the agreement.