You can control who has access to the data you contribute to Synapse in two ways. First, you determine who can access content by using sharing settings. 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 dataset. You can use sharing settings to authorize who can view, edit, download, or delete data.

In addition to sharing settings, the second way to control who can access your data is by applying conditions for use. These restrictions define how users who have permission to download your data may use it. Conditions for use may include IRB approval or other restrictions defined by the data contributor.

Important: To download data, users must qualify for data access through both the sharing settings and through fulfilling any Conditions for Use on the dataset.

To learn more about these features in Synapse, visit the Sharing Settings and Conditions for Use pages.

Data Access Tiers

All content in Synapse has sharing settings, but not all content has conditions for use. Generally, data in Synapse can be categorized in four tiers based on its availability:

  • Private Access Tier: Visible only to you and other users whom you select in Sharing Settings.

  • Controlled Access Tier: Available to registered, certified, or validated users that fulfill specific requirements for data access, such as submitting an Intended Data Use statement, obtaining IRB approval, agreeing to data use limitations, or other prerequisites.

  • Open Access Tier (also called open access data or open use data): Available for all registered Synapse users without use limitations.

  • Anonymous Access Tier: Available for anyone on the web without Conditions for Use.

Private Access Data

By default, when you create a new project in Synapse, the sharing settings are set to private and any data that you add will only be visible to you.  Private access data also includes data that you share only with individual Synapse users or teams through sharing settings, but it is not viewable to other Synapse users.

Controlled Access Data

Controlled access data is generally data that contains sensitive information that could potentially harm individuals or groups if misused.  Therefore, you must meet certain conditions for use before you can gain access to it. These protections are defined by the data contributor and specify how the data can be used. Controlled access data can only be downloaded and used by authorized Synapse users, and it is not transferable unless explicitly specified otherwise. In other words, you cannot share controlled access data freely with other collaborators; each Synapse user wishing to use controlled access data must individually request access to the data. To learn more about conditions for use and how to apply them to your data, see Conditions for Use.

Important: Controlled access data may not be redistributed.

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

Open Access Data

Unlike controlled access data, open access data does not require limitations on its use. Open access data is subject to general terms and conditions as specified in the Synapse Pledge, and data users must have a registered Synapse account to download it. 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

Anonymous access data is similar to open data, except it is available for anyone on the web to view and download, with or without a registered Synapse account. 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@synapse.org.


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