I quit my current research group after four and a half years. I am currently looking for other opportunities to join a new research group and finish my PhD.
Based on recent meetings with my former PhD adviser, our graduate coordinator, and our department chair, I was asked to sign and accept a Data Transfer Document to acknowledge that all the data, code, and intellectual property that were created during these four and a half years belong to my former PhD adviser, which I don't have any claim. I am willing to give up all the data, code, and intellectual property to him. I don't want to use anything created during these four and a half years for the rest of my life.
I received this Data Transfer Document today, and it contains some information that my former PhD adviser still recommends me to stay and continue my work with him. Still, I'm not going to do that. After that, a long list of data, code, implementations, and other created things during these four and a half years. In the end, there is a place that I need to sign and attest that I acknowledge that I transfer everything to him. It's OK, and I'm going to sign that.
This list of contributions gives me the impression that my former adviser expects me to complete all the incomplete tasks, and then I would turn them to him. My concern is that he hopes to do new work on the existing research materials and possibly bring them to a shape that he expects to see. My understanding of transferring all the data and research materials to the PI when somebody quits is like a freeze. Everything that was created and developed up to that moment should be transferred entirely to the PI in its current form. I don't think my former PI should expect that I'm going to do more work when I want to give up four and a half years and accept the pain of not getting a PhD for all the work I did during these years. If I wanted to continue to work on these research materials, I would stay, not leaving and abandoning all of my works.
It should be noted here that I never received any funding from my former PhD adviser. My funding comes from a different department entirely unrelated to my former PhD adviser.
In response to his list, I compiled another list that points out what data, results, or code is located where and how to access that. All the materials are stored within the university's storage and repositories. I don't want to have a lengthy discussion with my former adviser about why something is not complete in his opinion or if he expects me to do extra work on current research materials. I'm going to send him this list that I compiled and the signed Data Transfer Document and say whatever that is created during these four and a half years is entirely yours, and I don't have any claim. I wanted to know if he can force me to do extra or new work on the current research materials or not?
Update: I communicated my concerns to our graduate coordinator, and I received this response:
It is not in my competency to decide what should be in the Data Transfer Document. It is created solely by your adviser.
You are not supposed to do extra research to satisfy this requirement. My understanding is that you need to Transfer Data that is already existing.
About intellectual property issues, you might consult with appropriate IP persons prior signing the document. Also you might consult with them if there are any consequences of not signing this document.
So, even if item 2 might be correct, I'm not comfortable with the hostile language and how it is worded. My other impression from this response is that not signing this document is also not that important as long as I acknowledge the University's IP policy.
Further update/clarification: I originally did not have the confidence to refuse to sign the data transfer document. But after this discussion, I have now told my adviser that I am not comfortable signing.
Latest update: Following my question, it seems that I must sign the proposed document to be able to switch my research group inside our department. I have pasted the two parts of this document that I am not comfortable with. I kindly ask you to read these sentences and let me know if reading this content will affect any prospective adviser's decision. Please tell me if you get a bad impression from a student approaching you and not accept him/her after reading these sentences.
You have indicated that you wish to withdraw from your research course and abandon your dissertation research following an incomplete (I) grade that you did not resolve, resulting in a no pass (NP) grade for the semester. My recommendation remains for you to work with the graduate school to develop a plan to improve your research skills while recognizing the tenets of academic integrity. The sanctions imposed for previous violations of academic integrity remain binding. You should also be aware that according to the university regulations, all requirements for a doctoral degree must be completed within eight years from the date a student first matriculates into a doctoral degree program at this university.
The undersigned acknowledges Mr. Alone Programmer’s obligations outlined in this memo and enclosed documents and acknowledges Mr. Alone Programmer’s responsibility to resolve any pending issues of concern under University’s Graduate School Policies and Procedures.