What are the key concerns partners have about sharing data?

Trust is at the center of partnerships. While written agreements alone are not sufficient to build trust, the process of developing a data-sharing agreement presents a trust-building opportunity. Use the data agreement to outline non-negotiables and good faith commitments.

Managing access to data is the goal of data-sharing agreements. Each side has distinct concerns. Partners on the practice side need to set parameters on who has access to data and how data will be handled. They often want a guarantee of “no surprises” on results released. Researchers in Research Alliances are concerned with maintaining their independence from the district in the use and interpretation of data, managing the transfer of data across systems, and aligning their data management practices with their host institutions. Common elements in data-sharing agreements are:

  • Authorizations and protocols for those handling data
  • Limitations on the use of data
  • “No surprises” clauses and the district’s right to review findings before they go public
  • A plan for data security
  • Ownership of data
  • Conflict resolution procedures
  • Modification and termination of services

How long are data sharing agreements in effect?

The timeframes vary from two to five years, sometimes more. A shorter time frame may be necessary when a partnership is newer and partners want a near-term opportunity to reassess their agreement. Longer time frames allow the work to keep moving and are often preferable for more mature partnerships.

What protocols and training are needed to keep data secure?

Data management and data security issues are critical. While research and practice partners are used to thinking about data management and security practices within their own institutions, the transfer and sharing of data is more complicated when working across systems. Partners may have different capacity to store, organize, transfer and secure data.

Partnerships address data security through protocols that limit access to certain individuals and for specific purposes. Mature RPPs say that FERPA guidelines should be the floor, not the ceiling, for protecting privacy and having protocols for linking and sharing data without compromising privacy.

How should we approach the day-to-day management of data?

No written agreement can replace a good data manager, a role that is essential to smooth data-sharing. The data to be shared are often organized in smaller, disparate parcels across units, partners, and systems – many of which are not well-coordinated or do not talk with each other. Data managers ensure that these many and varied data pieces are organized for analysis. See additional information on the data manager role in our section on Staffing.