The 4 Key Roles of Research Legal Services
Updated: Mar 16
Although Principal Investigators (PIs) and their teams are focused on their research objectives and the conduct of their activities, they have specific responsibilities for the shaping of supporting data management plans, ensuring data quality, privacy, and accuracy, as well as promoting the sharing and reuse of their research results. But, often overlooked is the role of many administrative resources in supporting researchers through these efforts. This blog focuses on the role of Research Legal Services (RLS) in supporting researchers.
RLS provides a critical service to researchers, their teams, the institutions they work for, and funders on legal and ethical issues surrounding the conduct of research and the data collected as part of that research activity. They have an important role in ensuring that research data is collected, stored, and shared in compliance with regulatory, legal, and ethical standards. Specifically, they have these four roles:
1. Ensuring compliance with legal and ethical standards
RLS provides legal advice on data protection regulations, intellectual property rights, and research ethics. RLS works with researchers to identify legal and ethical risks and approaches to mitigate them.
2. Drafting legal agreements, contracts, and consent forms
RLS ensures that the agreements signed by PIs, their teams, external collaborators, and research participants adequately address the issues surrounding the use, storage, and sharing of research data collected and produced by these activities.
3. Resolve legal disputes
RLS is often involved in addressing disputes of data ownership, data misuse or breaches, and participant notifications that may be required as part of regulatory obligations.
4. Provide ongoing support to researchers
RLS must also provide ongoing training to researchers and their teams on data management, storage, regulatory guidance, and legal and ethical standards that must be adhered to in conjunction with certain types of research activities.
Researchers and the institutions they are a part of value these services and rely on them to protect their professional and reputational interests in complex higher education or other research-intensive settings. It is our view that platforms and solutions that understand and support the full integration of RLS in the Research Data Management planning, conduct, and closure activities can go a long way to reducing institutional operational inefficiencies and facilitating quality research.