Introducing Contracts for Data Collaboration: New Project on Legal Conditions for Data Sharing

Written by TReNDS Staff and Partners from GovLab, University of Washington, and World Economic Forum

As the world works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, countries are facing a short supply of necessary data to monitor and guide their activities in critical areas ranging from biodiversity to gender equality. As of 2018, 131 of the 232 SDG indicators still lack either regular data or an established methodology for measurement. The Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) is researching how the data community can fill these data gaps with new technologies, sources, and collaborations, such as data sharing and data collaboratives between the private and public sector. Promising data partnerships, however, can struggle to overcome institutional and legal barriers.

To better understand the legal conditions that can enable effective data sharing, TReNDS, the GovLab at New York University, University of Washington’s Information Risk Research Initiative, and the World Economic Forum are joining forces to create an online library of data sharing agreements. With this resource and supporting analysis, the group aims to help data collaborators learn from past examples and craft effective agreements.

The project consortium will be launching an open, online library of legal contracts and other agreements that have facilitated data sharing across all 17 SDGs. So far, it has collected and begun to analyze more than 40 data sharing agreements that cover a range of applications, from fuel poverty to marine habitat conservation. The agreements are being reviewed in detail according to a comprehensive typology that considers how a host of issues are addressed, including:

  • The source and purpose of data

  • Security and privacy concerns

  • Requirements of participants

  • Risks and accountability

The group is working to understand how agreements are currently being developed and identify useful patterns or common language. Analysis will also look for insights specific to individual SDGs. Use cases, guides, and other resources based on these analyses will be available alongside the searchable library of agreements.

This work builds on existing efforts to document data sharing and data collaboratives, not to mention understand their challenges and opportunities. For example, TReNDS supported a project with Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (known as DANE), the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, and think tank Cepei that aimed to fill the gaps in Colombia’s SDG-related data with information from the private sector, taken from the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce’s databases. GovLab has documented some 145 cases of data collaboration from around the world to show how data is being shared and used, highlighting coordination issues and solutions, data management, and other contextual information that can help data providers and users better understand incentives and challenges. See “Legal Issues Around Data Sharing” for additional examples.

Although some data sharing agreement templates are available (see “Other Resources for Data Sharing Agreements”), they are highly general. On the other hand, existing repositories of legal agreements are limited in scope. Furthermore, most of the available resources do not specifically address data for the SDGs, and this area may present unique legal challenges or opportunities that need to be considered.

Call for Contributions

The repository aims to capture the full scope of data sharing arrangements across all 17 of the SDGs. Public and private organizations are invited to send sample documents associated with information and data sharing from their own work. Please email documents or any questions you may have to TReNDS Analyst Hayden Dahmm (hayden.dahmm@unsdsn.org). Do note that all contributed materials will be made publicly available online, so please remove any party names or identifying information as necessary from the agreements before sending, and make certain that you are not sharing any private or confidential materials. Your contributions will help strengthen the repository and support the work of future data collaboratives.

Legal Issues Around Data Sharing   The success of a data collaboration can depend on complex legal factors. For example,  Chatham House , upon analyzing data sharing in the public health surveillance sector, noted the importance of understanding the wider legal context and forming data sharing agreements. Moreover, agreements are important for building trust between parties that may be approaching data sharing with different views and interests. Forming an agreement may require difficult negotiations, though, and  documented examples  suggest this process can be highly time consuming and delay other project activities. Members of  GovLab’s Data Stewards Network  also identified legal negotiations as a major transaction cost when establishing data collaboratives. Many low income countries struggle with  limited statistical capacity , and national statistical offices might not be able to manage a lengthy contract negotiation, making new data sources more challenging to access where they are most needed.

Legal Issues Around Data Sharing

The success of a data collaboration can depend on complex legal factors. For example, Chatham House, upon analyzing data sharing in the public health surveillance sector, noted the importance of understanding the wider legal context and forming data sharing agreements. Moreover, agreements are important for building trust between parties that may be approaching data sharing with different views and interests. Forming an agreement may require difficult negotiations, though, and documented examples suggest this process can be highly time consuming and delay other project activities. Members of GovLab’s Data Stewards Network also identified legal negotiations as a major transaction cost when establishing data collaboratives. Many low income countries struggle with limited statistical capacity, and national statistical offices might not be able to manage a lengthy contract negotiation, making new data sources more challenging to access where they are most needed.

Other Resources for Data Sharing Agreements   Data collaborators looking to navigate the legal complexities of a data sharing agreement can access several existing resources, such as those listed below. These resources and past research have made important contributions, but more comprehensive tools are still needed to understand the legal conditions for data sharing.  ·  ContractStandards  gives a data sharing agreement template that users can populate with their own information.  ·  LawInsider  provides data sharing sample clauses with passages from representative contracts.  ·  Research Practice Partnerships  includes answers to general questions about data sharing agreements and a few example agreements from the education and health sectors.  · The University of California San Francisco’s  Clinical and Translational Science Institute  has published tools for community-engaged research, including model memorandums of understanding.  · The Urban Institute’s  National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP)  has created a library of data sharing agreements from its various collaborators, covering the education, healthcare, housing, labor and human services, and criminal justice sectors.

Other Resources for Data Sharing Agreements

Data collaborators looking to navigate the legal complexities of a data sharing agreement can access several existing resources, such as those listed below. These resources and past research have made important contributions, but more comprehensive tools are still needed to understand the legal conditions for data sharing.

· ContractStandards gives a data sharing agreement template that users can populate with their own information.

· LawInsider provides data sharing sample clauses with passages from representative contracts.

· Research Practice Partnerships includes answers to general questions about data sharing agreements and a few example agreements from the education and health sectors.

· The University of California San Francisco’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has published tools for community-engaged research, including model memorandums of understanding.

· The Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) has created a library of data sharing agreements from its various collaborators, covering the education, healthcare, housing, labor and human services, and criminal justice sectors.