Big Data: Open Data and Legal Strings


Data sharing is at the heart of future research. In defiance of legislative initiatives to promote open data, anecdotal evidence suggests that data remains inaccessible, underutilized or in other manners closed off for publicly funded research projects. The activity will scrutinize the legal challenges of open data.

Project description (ongoing research project)

  1. In the first step, information shall be collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews with selected researchers of the programme.
  2. A legal analysis will begin with the findings of the empirical study and will provide insight into the regulatory framework of data access for public research. The relevant legal sources will be identified first and then analyzed for scope and impact with a focus on case law.
  3. In the final part, the results will be critically evaluated and core recommendations will be made to improve the legal situation around research data.


The progression of digital data storage and increase in technology has led to the proliferation of large databases offering potentially excellent options for research. With research proposals for public funding at hand, the question how to gain access to and how to grant access to data arises for almost every publicly funded research. This question is related to the issue of who actually has authority over the use of data for scientific studies, which arises in a number of situations.


The overall objective will be to define the central issues concerning the problem of access to data in publicly funded research in Switzerland. The objective is to map, to sort and to analyze specific cases to document the challenges and questions of open data for future publicly funded science projects. Ultimately, a map should be developed, showing the main challenges that can be addressed by institutions or scientists. This will allow scientists to briefly examine their proposals for potential legal challenges.


Researchers raised a large number of questions regarding legal problems within their projects. Research using big data applications requires access to large data pools and the legal challenges are both novel and pressing in many of the projects. To map the framework, analyze specific issues and their underlying legal problems is the first step to ensure that publicly funded studies aimed at open access publications and data policies enjoy adequate freedom to research in the future.

Original title

Big Data: Open Data and Legal Strings - Mapping the Ground for Public Funding Research Projects

Project leader

Prof. Sabine Gless, Juristische Fakultät, Universität Basel

Further information on this content


Prof. Sabine Gless Juristische Fakultät Universität Basel Peter Merian-Weg 8
4002 Basel