Case Study

A social sciences faculty member has a postdoctoral fellow working with him on a three-year federally-funded study. The study involves conducting approximately 75 interviews. The postdoctoral fellow receives a salary from the federal grant to work on the study, and works in the faculty member’s assigned space mostly during weekdays.

At the end of the first year, one of the faculty member’s graduate advisees joins the study. She plans to conduct approximately 20 of the interviews and to use the data for her dissertation, under the guidance of the faculty member. She will not receive a salary or wages from either the grant or the university (as a research or teaching assistant) for this work. As she has a full-time job, the graduate student plans to do most of her work during the evenings and on weekends.

At the end of the three years, the grant funding and the study end. The postdoctoral fellow has obtained a tenure track position and, in preparing to leave the research group, requests a copy of the data to take with him. The student used the data she collected for her dissertation, which she successfully defended. As she prepares to leave the research group, she transfers all of the data that she collected and used in her dissertation from the computer onto a portable disk drive and packs all the original supporting documentation into boxes to take with her. The faculty member walks in just as she starts to move everything to her car. He asks her what she is taking, and she explains that she is taking with her the data that she collected and the supporting documentation. The faculty member tells the student that she cannot take the data with her as he owns it. The student replies that she collected the data and because she was not being paid by the faculty member’s grant or by the university to conduct the work, she owns the data.