The Practice of User Registration to Access Data

By administrator | September 14, 2005

I am writing to address an issue that is coming up at UCLA with increasing frequency. More and more data distributors (agencies, archives, individuals) require a user to “register” before downloading data from a web site. These registrations take many forms and there is a continuum in terms of levels of detail and responsibility assigned to the user. It makes it hard for me to be of service to users when each study requires every individual to perform the registration task. Few archives will agree to any kind of blanket license so that the Archive can download the data one time and provide it to users at UCLA. Fewer still will permit me to be a gate keeper such as ICPSR acts for really secure data. I’d like to know how other archives handle these issues.

Faculty chafe at the registration requirement and I am aware of numerous cases where one faculty member gets the file(s) and “shares” regardless of the agreement they have made with the data distributor not to do so. There is also a feeling on the part of faculty that increasing access barriers are adding to the cost of research. I am intrigued by this idea and I wonder if anyone has heard this argument as well. I would like to find data that can demonstrate this increase in cost - whether it is in time, staff costs, hardware or software costs, or other quantifiable aspects of research. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Contributed by Libbie Stephenson