PhysioNetWorks: Protected data archives
By building a protected data archive using PhysioNet's services from
the outset of your project, you can back up your data securely as
you gather them. At the conclusion of your project, you can have
a data set that is ready to be shared and that can stimulate and
support further work on your research topic.
All data shared via PhysioNet must
be de-identified (i.e., it must not be
possible to associate data obtained from human subjects with any
individual subjects). PhysioNet's free and
open-source deid software may be
useful for removing PHI from text files.
Once your data have been de-identified, they can be transmitted to a
protected data archive that we will establish for you on a
PhysioNet server (PhysioNetWorks). Data can remain protected until a
date chosen by you (typically at the conclusion of your project, or at
a milestone such as publication of your major findings). At that
time, our expectation is that your data will be transferred to
PhysioBank, the publicly accessible data archives of PhysioNet.
PhysioNetWorks quick start:
If you are ready to begin, or if you just want to see how PhysioNetWorks
can work for you, you can get started immediately:
- Create a PhysioNetWorks account for
yourself. Each of your collaborators should also create an account. This
process takes only a minute or two; once you have finished, you will be
directed to your newly-created PhysioNetWorks home page.
- Explore the existing PhysioNetWorks projects. Each project has
a home page with a brief description written by its owner. Many projects
welcome new members; you will find information about joining projects on their
- Click the Create a new project button on your PhysioNetWorks
home page. Your project is created within your personal workspace, and links
to it appear on your home page. (It is not visible to anyone else at this
time.) Set it up as you prefer using its Manage page, and experiment
with uploading files to it. You can delete it and start over if you wish.
- When you're ready for the next step, mark your project as Ready to
activate. Your project will then be reviewed by PhysioNet (usually within
a day or two), and if approved, it will be transferred to its own protected
workspace on PhysioNetWorks, with a larger storage allocation.
- Once your project has been activated, you may share access to it with
your collaborators (or any other PhysioNetWorks members) using the project
membership controls on its Manage page. You can grant read-only
access to some members (reviewers), and read-and-upload access to others
(collaborators) if you wish. Although collaborators can upload files to your
project archive, they cannot alter existing files; only you (the owner)
have that privilege.
- After your project is complete (perhaps after your major results have been
published), return to its Manage page and mark it as Ready to
publish. Your project will be reviewed again by PhysioNet, and if
approved, will be transferred to a publicly accessible area on PhysioNet.
You can create a PhysioNetWorks account for yourself (see PhysioNetWorks
Quick Start at right), and you will need to do so in order to obtain
any of the services described below.
Researchers can upload data to protected storage using a web browser.
The investigator may share access to the protected data archive with
colleagues if he or she wishes to do so.
PhysioNet provides daily incremental backup of all protected data archives at
its primary location and monthly full backup at a second location. Data
deleted before the most recent full backup are not recoverable. All disks used
for storage (on-line or backup) are encrypted and kept in physically secure
Any type of research data may be stored, including data in spreadsheets,
relational databases, or flat binary or text files.
Data stored in PhysioBank-compatible formats may be viewed
and processed using the PhysioBank ATM tools.
These include tools that can be used to convert a wide variety of data formats
into PhysioBank-compatible formats. The ATM toolkit may be particularly useful
for investigators who need to develop expert annotations for their data.
Up to a gigabyte of private protected storage is available on a self-service
basis. This storage is not sharable. It can be used to develop prototypes
of projects to be shared, and as a staging area for files to be transferred
later to shared archives.
Qualified researchers may apply for protected data archives to be established
for their projects. These
archives accomodate larger amounts of data, and they can be
shared as desired.
- Archives sufficient to store up to 100 gigabytes are available
without charge. Additional protected storage
is available for a fee. There is no charge if the data are made
available for immediate public release.
- Two hours of support are more than sufficient for most projects, and
are available without charge.
Additional support is available for a fee.
- PhysioNetWorks is built using free and open source software and
standard PC hardware. If you wish, you may create a fully functional
mirror (copy) of the PhysioNetWorks server infrastructure and of your
protected data archive, which can be synchronized with the master
PhysioNetWorks server at daily (or less frequent) intervals. You are
under no obligation to do so.
Once the data have been released for posting in a public area of
PhysioNet, there are no recurring charges.
Researchers who are allocated a protected data archive on PhysioNetWorks agree
that they and any colleagues who share it will not use it to store PHI, or any
material that they do not have permission to copy, and that they will release
their data for posting in a public area of the PhysioNet web site within
a reasonable period. NIH grant
recipients who agree to these terms are routinely allocated protected
storage; we review requests from other researchers and grant
allocations for projects that are in line with PhysioNet's goals as
PhysioBank: Public data archives
When your data are ready to be shared with other researchers, they can
be submitted for our review prior to posting them in
PhysioBank, the web-accessible public data
archives of PhysioNet. See the Guidelines
for contributors to PhysioBank for details of the criteria we use while
reviewing contributed data sets.
If your data have not previously been stored on PhysioNetWorks:
- Create a PhysioNetWorks account (see above).
- Create a new project from your PhysioNetWorks home page,
and indicate in the comment section of the project creation form that
your data are available for immediate review.
When your application is approved, you will receive instructions for
uploading your de-identified data into your protected data archive.
When your upload is complete, let us know and we will begin our
If your data are already stored on PhysioNetWorks, we will begin our review
on the agreed review date, or at any earlier date if you ask us to do so.
Based on the documentation you have given us, we will prepare a home
page for your data, and a news item to announce its availability, both
of which you will have an opportunity to review before your data are
posted in PhysioBank.
Your data will remain in the protected data archive until the review is
Once your data have been made available to other researchers in PhysioBank,
PhysioNet fields most questions from users unless you wish to handle them
If you are writing a grant application
Your grant application may require you to include a plan to make the data
you collect in the course of your publicly funded research publicly available.
PhysioNet provides a model data sharing
plan that you can include in your grant application.
If you wish to use PhysioNet services as part of your data sharing plan, we
can review and provide guidance on it before you submit your grant application.
If you propose and we accept a data sharing plan that makes use of PhysioNet
services, we will provide a letter of support that can be included in your
grant application. The letter will certify that if your project is funded,
we will provide it with the PhysioNet resources needed under the terms of the
proposed data sharing plan.