Software and Data Licensing at LIACS

This document provides LIACS employees and students with general guidelines, and pointers to specific guidelines, for licensing of scientific software and data.


At LIACS, as in Leiden University as a whole, we generally prefer and encourage open-source software and open data. Accordingly, LIACS supports the principles of Open Science, FAIR data, and FAIR software.

  • Open Science. In short: we want to make the scientific process and its results open where possible, and only closed where necessary.
  • FAIR data. In short: we want data to be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.
  • FAIR software. In short: we encourage scientific software to be made available in publicly accessible repositories, with a suitable (open-source) license, through a public community registry, and to be citable, and checked against quality criteria.

To ensure your software and data to be open, appropriate licenses need to be added. Otherwise, those that wish to reuse your software or data cannot do so, unless they obtain specific permission from you, the original author.

Developing Open Source Software

When you are creating scientific software, please consider to develop the software as open-source software from the start.

  • Consider using an open-source code repository, such as GitHub.
  • Choose an open source license to add to your repository, such as MIT, Apache, or GNU GPLv3.
  • Add the license to your repository, for instance following instructions from GitHub.
  • In general, you must add a LICENSE file in the top directory of your source code repository, and a copyright header (such as Copyright 2021 LIACS, Leiden University) in every source file.

Publishing Open Data

When you are planning to collect or generate research data, please consider to make the data publicly available.

  • Consider publishing your data in an open data repository, such as Zenodo or DANS Easy.
  • Choose an open data license for your data set, such as creative commons CC-BY or CC-BY-SA
  • If your data contains personal information, make sure to comply with data privacy regulation. In particular, do not use personal information without consent, and do not make personal information public.

These and other consideration when collecting and generating research data can be documented in a Data Management Plan (DMP). Note that many funding agencies make DMPs mandatory. The university library offers courses on data management.

When writing a grant proposal

If you are involved in writing, reviewing, or approving a grant proposal:

  • Strive to include an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) clause that allows open licensing in accordance with the above principles.
  • If appropriate, include language in the IPR clause on software patenting, specifically on which partner(s) in the proposal are responsible for patent costs.
  • Consider including budget to make your data open, for instance by hiring or contracting a data steward.

Contact the LIACS Project Office in case you need support with this.

When working under a grant or partnership

If you are working in the context of a partnership or project that is financed through a grant:

  • Comply with the constraints in the IPR clause of the grant agreement or partnership contract.
  • Within those constraints, please strive for the most open licensing option.

Find out what the licensing rules are for your project and/or partnership by asking your Principle Investigator (PI) and/or reading the grant agreement.

When working on an individual project

When working on an individual project, various alternative situations may apply.

Under a grant or partnership

When your individual project is funded through a grant or partnership, see above.

Under internship contract

When working under an internship contract, e.g., as a master or bachelor student doing their final project in collaboration with a company:

  • Follow publication and confidentiality rules as stipulated in the contract.
  • If you have doubts about licensing issues when asked to sign an internship agreement with your internship host company, contact the coordinator of your master or bachelor program with questions. In particular, avoid to enter into an internship agreement that unnecessarily limits the possibility to publish software or data under an open license.

Under employment contract

When working under a university contract, e.g., as an employee with a contract not governed by a grant agreement:

  • The formal copyright holder of your software is your employer, Leiden University, who prefers and encourages open-source software.
  • When your employment ends, copyright remains with the university, who prefers and encourages the software to remain publicly available (to you and others) through open source licensing.
  • When publishing software please use an open source license, and abide by the FAIR software principles.
  • When publishing data, please use an open data license, and abide by FAIR data principles.

Without formal agreement or contract

When working without funding or contract, e.g., as a master or bachelor student working on an in-house research project:

  • Make sure to ask your teacher or supervisor for an internship agreement or similar, such that the copyright will reside with the university and LIACS can ensure your software and/or data remains open for future use e.g., by other students and researchers. Then see Under internship contract above.

If none of the above conditions apply, then you as the author of the software are the copyright holder and unless you add an open-source license, the software is not open source, which implies that others cannot use the software without obtaining explicit permission first from you, the original author.

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More information is available.

  • Last modified: 2021/06/22 12:19
  • by joostvisser