One of the ways that Synapse governance supports responsible data sharing is through data access types. While user account types are applied to the user, data access types are applied to the data itself. The parameters of data access for any dataset is defined by contributors of that data.

Data access can be controlled in two layers: sharing settings and conditions for use.

Sharing settings enable you to list the individuals or teams who can view your project, and the permissions those groups have with respect to a specific dataset. You can use sharing settings to authorize who can view, edit, download, or delete data.

You can add an additional layer of data protection by applying conditions for use. These restrictions define how users who have permission to download data may use it. Conditions for use may include IRB approval or other restrictions that you define as the data contributor.

When both sharing settings and conditions for use are applied, then users must qualify for data access through both of these restrictions.

(plus) For information on sharing settings and conditions for use, including how to set them, see Sharing Settings, Permissions, and Conditions for Use.


There are four data access types in Synapse:

Private Access Data

Data set to private access is visible only to you and other users whom you select in sharing settings. It is not viewable to any other Synapse users. This is the default setting when you create a new project in Synapse.

Controlled Access Data

Data set to controlled access can be available to registered, certified, and validated users that fulfil specific requirements for data access through conditions of use that you set.

Controlled access data typically represents human data that contains sensitive information. Misuse of this data could potentially cause harm to those individuals or group. Therefore, data contributors can define conditions for use to specify how the data can be used by those who have access to it. Controlled access data can only be downloaded and used by those authorized to do so, and this data may never be redistributed. Any Synapse user wishing to use controlled access data must individually request access.

Examples of controlled access data include one or more of the following:

  • Data at risk of re-identifying research participants

  • Genetic sequence or genotype data from living individuals

  • Data from “vulnerable” populations as defined using OHRP guidelines

  • Data generated with restrictions or requirements for use as outlined in informed consents or legal agreements

To learn more about conditions for use and how to apply them to your data, see Conditions for Use.

Open Access Data

Data set to open access is available to all registered Synapse users, without additional use limitations.

Typically, open access data include:

  • Data from model organisms, species, or strains

  • Non-biological data, like data used for the calibration of instruments

  • Human data that are:

    • Publicly available elsewhere

    • De-identified and non-sensitive, with no known sharing or use restrictions

    • Self-contributed and unambiguously consented for open data sharing and use

Anonymous Access Data

Data set to anonymous access is available for anyone (even anonymous, non-registered users)

Anonymous access data could be:

  • Downloadable wiki content, such as newsletters or announcements of data releases

  • Metadata about a file or dataset

  • Data available under a public domain

To make your open data available to anonymous users, contact the Synapse Access and Compliance Team (ACT) at act@sagebase.org.