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Open Badge Researcher Credentials for Secure Access to Restricted and Sensitive Data

Combining and analyzing collections of data enables scientific breakthrough. Efficient, secure data sharing and reuse also facilitate collaboration and replication, leading to better science. However, managing different access policies and authenticating and authorizing access to restricted and sensitive data is a challenge faced by all data management organizations. Unauthorized access threatens the provenance and integrity of research data as well as the privacy of study participants in the case of human subjects research, and that can impact the conclusions we draw from them. This project reduces the complexity in protecting research data by developing and piloting an open badge research credential system (OBRCS).

Open badges are visual tokens that signal achievement, affiliation, authorization or another trust relationship and are shareable across the web. They allow individuals to present their evolving credentials openly and to record their achievements and credentials publicly. ICPSR will develop a system for issuing badges that represent different aspects of the necessary training and experience for accessing restricted social science data. For instance, users will be able to earn badges for completing training around data stewardship that verifies their knowledge about how to securely manage restricted data. ICPSR staff will validate users' training and experience when issuing badges. The system provides verifiable, portable credentials for users to share with data providers when requesting access to restricted data.

On the data provider end, the badge system will articulate what constitutes different levels of data sensitivity and risk as well as minimum researcher criteria for data access within these levels. The matrix of data properties and researcher criteria will make it clear what credentials researchers need to work with particular data sets, and the providers can assess researchers' credentials by viewing their badges.

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The amount of the award is $256,114 for UMSI for the project period. The grant is funded by the National Science Foundation.