Understanding Access

This checklist is intended to help new users understand their obligations regarding access and permissions, which individual users are responsible for obtaining and maintaining.

eRA Commons Account

Users log into BioData Catalyst platforms with their eRA Commons credentials. For more information, see Ecosystem Access, Hosted Data, and System Services.

Users create an eRA Commons Account through their institution's Office of Sponsored Research or equivalent. For more information, refer to Understanding eRA Commons Accounts.


Users who want to access a hosted controlled study on the BioData Catalyst ecosystem must be approved for access to that study in the NIH Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). For more information, see Ecosystem Access, Hosted Data, and System Services and BioData Catalyst FAQs. Note that obtaining these approvals can be a time-intensive process; failure to obtain them in a timely manner may delay data access.

Users have two options for obtaining dbGaP approval depending on whether they already are affiliated with a PI who has dbGaP access to the relevant data:

  1. The BioData Catalyst user has no affiliation with an existing dbGaP approved project. In this case the user needs to create their own dbGaP project and then submit a data access request (DAR) for approval by the NHLBI Data Access Committee (DAC). This process often takes 2-6 months depending on whether local IRB approval is required by the dataset the user is requesting, the amount of time it takes for local review of the dbGaP application by the user’s home institution and processing by the DAR committee. See the dbGap Authorized Access Portal or dbGaP Overview: Requesting Controlled-Access Data. Once a DAR is approved, it can take a week or longer for the approval to be reflected on BioData Catalyst.

  2. The BioData Catalyst user is affiliated with an existing principal investigator, who already has an approved dbGaP application with existing DAR access (for example, the BioData Catalyst user is a post-doctoral fellow in a PI’s lab). A principal investigator with dbGaP DAR access assigns the User as a “Downloader” in dbGaP. See Assign Downloaders for dbGaP Data. It can take about 24 hours for “Downloader” approval to be reflected on BioData Catalyst.


DARs must be renewed annually to maintain your data access permissions. If your permissions expire, you may lose access to hosted data in BDCatalyst during your renewal process.

A Cloud Use Statement may be required as part of the DAR.


BioData Catalyst hosts data from the NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Consortium. BioData Catalyst users are not automatically onboarded as TOPMed investigators. BioData Catalyst users who are not members of the TOPMed Consortium may apply for released data through the regular dbGaP Data Access Request process.

When conducting TOPMed-related research on BioData Catalyst, members of the TOPMed consortium must follow the TOPMed Publications Policy and associated processes; for example, operating within Working Groups.

For more information, refer to the following resources:


Users must ensure that IRB data use agreements (DUAs) are approved and maintained as they are enforced by the BioData Catalyst ecosystem.

BioData Catalyst

Refer to the BioData Catalyst Data Protection page to learn more about topics such as data privacy, access controls, and restrictions.

Use your eRA Commons account to review the data indexed by BioData Catalyst to which you have access on the Explore BioData Catalyst Data page. For more information, see Checking Access.

If your data is not indexed, inform BioData Catalyst team members during your onboarding meetings or by submitting a Help Desk ticket.

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