Introduction

On April 2 2018 the General Office of the State Council issued the Measures for the Management of Scientific Data, which aim to:

  • improve and standardise the management of scientific data;
  • safeguard scientific data security; and
  • encourage transparency and the sharing of scientific data.

This is the first time that China has released measures which regulate scientific data at the national level. It is hoped that the measures will pave the way for:

  • greater technological innovation;
  • increased economic and social development; and
  • enhanced national security.

Background

In recent years, there has been increased investment in technology and continuous technological innovation. This has meant an increase in the quality and quantity of scientific data, thus thrusting the data-intensive scientific community into the mainstream. However, the management and application of scientific data in China has many shortcomings. European countries and the United States have more comprehensive security policies for scientific data, especially with regard to privacy and the sharing of sensitive data. US and UK scientific research institutions (eg, the US National Science Foundation and Research Councils UK) and colleges and universities (eg, Harvard University and Oxford University) have issued guidelines and regulations to manage their scientific data, including in relation to:

  • classification;
  • data sharing restrictions; and
  • other key matters concerning scientific data security.

China has recently established a scientific data sharing platform at the ministry, provincial and city levels, as well as at various scientific research institutions (eg, colleges and universities). However, there is significant room for improvement regarding the formulation of policies concerning security management and data sharing. The Measures for the Management of Scientific Data aim to improve the efficacy of China's science and technology data input through more reasonable and sound data management.

Summary of measures

The measures comprise 33 articles, which are spread across the following six chapters.

General provisions Chapter One specifies the definition of 'scientific data' and the application scope of the measures. It requires the management of scientific data to follow the principles of:

  • hierarchical management;
  • security and controllability; and
  • full use.

It also requires entities to:

  • designate a person to be responsible for scientific data;
  • improve their data capacity where possible; and
  • promote transparency and data sharing.

Duties Chapter Two specifies the main duties of:

  • the State Council's Science and Technology Administration Department;
  • various other competent departments;
  • the relevant scientific research institutions, colleges, universities, enterprises and other legal entities; and
  • the scientific data centre (to be established by the State Council's Science and Technology Administration Department).

It also designates the relevant scientific research institutions, colleges, universities, enterprises and other legal entities as the bodies responsible for the management of scientific data.

Collection, submission and storage Chapter Three requires legal entities to establish a quality control and storage system for scientific data to guarantee its integrality and security. It also requires competent departments to build a system for the submission of scientific data. Under the measures, legal entities and the competent departments must establish and develop a management system for the submission of domestic and overseas academic data. The author of an academic paper must submit the associated scientific data to the entity to which he or she belongs for uniform management before the paper's publication. Further, the State Council Science and Technology Administration Department must establish a national scientific data centre based on other high-quality scientific data centres.

Sharing and using data Chapter Four requires scientific data created with the support of the government budget fund to be accessible and shared under the principle of "openness shall be normal and non-openness shall be exceptional". Where scientific data is required for non-profit scientific research, the legal entity concerned will provide such scientific data free of charge in keeping with the important role played by scientific data.

Confidentiality and security Chapter Five provides that scientific data involving state secrets, state security, social public interests, commercial secrets and personal privacy cannot be accessed and shared. Where access to such data is required:

  • the purpose for accessing the data, the user's qualifications, the conditions of confidentiality and other factors will be subject to examination; and
  • the access will be strictly controlled.

Where scientific data involving a state secret needs to be provided in the course of foreign communications or cooperation, the legal entity concerned must:

  • define the category, scope and purpose of the data to be used;
  • report the case to the competent department for approval according to established confidentiality management procedures; and
  • sign a confidentiality agreement with the user, as required.

Supplementary provisions Chapter Six restricts the manufacture of scientific data. In cases of data falsification, penalties will be imposed. The competent departments may formulate specific implementing rules in this regard in accordance with the measures.

Comment

In the Big Data era, scientific and technological innovation increasingly depends on the collection and analysis of large quantities of systematic and credible scientific data. Compared with some European countries and the United States – which have comprehensive scientific data security policies in place based on extensive research into data management technology – China still has far to go. However, the Measures for the Management of Scientific Data will help to strengthen China's data security, which will eventually lead to improved IP rights protection.

Notably, under the measures, scientific data involving state secrets, state security, social public interests, commercial secrets and personal privacy cannot be accessed and shared. Where access to such data is required, the purpose for accessing the data, the user's qualifications, the conditions of confidentiality and other factors will be subject to examination and the access will be strictly controlled. 'State secrets' 'state security' and 'social public interests' are broad concepts and the review mechanism in this regard is also unclear. Article 32 of the measures provides that the competent departments may formulate specific implementing rules by reference to the measures. Therefore, it is hoped that specific implementing rules will be developed shortly in order to provide enterprises with detailed practical guidance.

For further information on this topic please contact Samuel Yang, Wen Su or Yang Chen at AnJie Law Firm by telephone (+86 10 8567 5988) or email (yanghongquan@anjielaw.com, suwen@anjielaw.com or chenyang@anjielaw.com). The AnJie Law Firm website can be accessed at www.anjielaw.com.

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