Sharing Settings and Conditions for Use


Synapse has two content controls: the Sharing setting and Conditions for Use. The Sharing setting is an access control. It determines who has access to Synapse content. Conditions for Use are for data governance. They determine how data can be used.

Sharing settings

You can use the Sharing setting to invite people to view or collaborate on a Synapse Project. There are two Sharing settings: Public and Private. Synapse content with the Public Sharing setting is visible to all Synapse users. By contrast, the Private Sharing setting limits who can see content. By default, new Projects are Private.

synapse logo Important: Synapse users are responsible for determining the appropriate Sharing Setting for any content they upload into Synapse.

How to share content

To adjust the Sharing setting, click the Share button at the upper right hand side of the Project's header. This will open a window listing the Synapse users who have access to the Project and their roles. A globe icon means the Project is Public. A lock icon means the Project is Private. When you create a new Project you are the only Synapse user listed in this window. Use the Add People feature to add collaborators individually or to add a team of collaborators.

Sharing content within a Project

You can also adjust the Sharing setting for Folders, Files, and Tables. By default, all of the content residing within a Folder or Project inherits the Sharing setting of its parent Folder or Project. To create a local Sharing setting specific only to a particular Folder, File or Table, open the Folder, File or Table and click on its Share button and adjust the Sharing setting just like you would for a Project. It is important to note that you cannot set local sharing settings for Wikis and Discussion Forums. Wikis and Discussion Forums inherit the Sharing setting of their parent Project.

Local Sharing settings are illustrated in the diagram below. Projects A and B have a Public Sharing setting (notice the globe icon on the Share button). Folders 1 and 2 and Table 3 in Project A do not have a local Sharing setting specified. Because they do not have a local Sharing setting specified, they inherit the Public Sharing setting of Project A. By contrast, in Project B the Folder 4 and Table 6 do have local Sharing settings. Unlike their parent Project B, Folder 4 and Table 6 have the Private Sharing setting (notice the lock icon on the Share buttons). However, File 5 has no local Sharing setting; it inherits the Public Sharing setting of Project B. But, if you move File 5 into Folder 4, then its Public Sharing setting will be reset to the Sharing setting of Folder 4: Private.

Conditions for Use

Some data requires data governance to appropriately manage its use. In Synapse this data is called Controlled Data and it is protected by Conditions for Use. Conditions for Use are typically applied in order to comply with the terms under which the data were collected or with other human subjects regulations. For example, human ‘omic’ data may have Conditions for Use imposed by informed consent requirements, legal contracts, or other privacy requirements. It is also appropriate to add Condition for Use to data collected from “vulnerable” populations and to content that could potentially harm individuals or groups if misused.

synapse logo Important: Controlled Data may not be redistributed.

Controlled Data can only be downloaded and used by authorized Synapse users. Controlled Data is not transferable unless explicitly specified otherwise. In other words, you cannot share Controlled Data with collaborators. Each Synapse user wishing to access Controlled Data must individually agree to the Conditions for Use to access that data.

synapse logo Important: Synapse users are responsible for determining the appropriate Conditions for Use for any data they upload into Synapse.

It is important to note that Conditions for Use cannot be set for Synapse Wikis or Discussion Forums: they are not designed to house data and therefore do not have local Conditions for Use as a feature.

Data that does not require Conditions for Use

Synapse Open Data is data that does not require Conditions for Use. Any registered Synapse user included in the Project, Folder, File or Table (based on the Sharing setting) can immediately access Open Data. Typically, Open Data is:

  • Data from model organisms, species or strains
  • Non-biological data, like that used for the calibration of instruments

Human data that are:

  • Publicly available elsewhere
  • Anonymous
  • De-identified and non-sensitive, with no known sharing or use restrictions
  • Self-contributed and unambiguously consented for open data sharing and use

Data that does require Conditions for Use

Conditions for Use regulate who can access Controlled Data and how it can be used. This means that any Synapse user included in a Project, Folder, File or Table (based on the Sharing setting) must fulfill the Conditions for Use before he/she can access that Controlled Use data. Examples of Controlled Data include:

  • Data whose nature confers more than minimal risks of re-identification to the research participant.
  • Genetic sequence or genotype data from living individuals
  • Data from “vulnerable” populations as defined using OHRP guidelines
  • Data generated with restrictions or requirements for use as outlined in informed consents or legal agreements

Examples of Conditions for Use

Conditions for Use vary broadly. Some examples include:

  • Specification of what type of research or analysis can be conducted on the data, for example, a data set may only be able to be used for breast cancer research
  • Specification of who can conduct research with the data set, for example, only researchers at non-profit institutions can use the data for research
  • Specification that results be shared with the originating researcher/entity
  • Requirement that the researcher submit an Intended Data Use statement prior to accessing the data. Note that Intended Data Use statements must be updated anytime the research plan changes.

Additionally, use of certain data may require independent review and monitoring of research by an ethics committee (for example, an IRB). This ensures that use of the data meets all applicable human subjects research regulations.

How to set Conditions for Use?

If you would like to set Conditions for Use for an entire Project, please contact the Synapse Access and Compliance Team (ACT) directly for assistance (

By default, the Folders, Files and Tables residing within a Folder or Project inherit the Conditions for Use of the parent Folder or Project. As with Sharing settings, you can set local Conditions for Use for individual Folders, Files and Tables but only in addition to the existing parent Project/Folder’s Conditions for Use. In other words, every Folder, File or Table has the Conditions for Use of its parent Project/Folder, and may have additional local Conditions for Use as needed. You cannot create Folder, File or Table that has fewer Conditions for Use than its parent Project/Folder or that has Conditions for Use that conflict with the Conditions for Use of the parent Project/Folder.

To set Conditions for Use for a specific Folder, File or Table, use the popup Conditions for Use dialogue box. If you select that you would like to set Conditions for Use for your content, you are asked if the Folder, File or Table contains, “sensitive human data that must be protected.” If you answer “yes,” the ACT will reach out to you to assist in setting the appropriate Conditions for Use. If you answer “no,” but still feel that your Folder, File or Table requires Conditions for Use, contact the ACT for further discussion (

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