What are some common data sharing challenges and how have others addressed them?

RPPs often vary in terms of data management capacity and the scope of potential challenges. One common obstacle is that existing systems are incompatible: Data created and maintained for administrative purposes, for example, may be difficult to manipulate for research purposes. Some data may be particularly sensitive and require additional protocols. Other times, data may be shared among multiple partners and require multiple agreements. In some contexts, data sharing agreements must be negotiated between several entities, involving legal departments that may offer differing interpretations around data sharing. An early survey of the existing data systems and future data needs of the partners can help uncover these and other potential challenges.

It is important to consider ways to ensure that data are managed and shared effectively and efficiently between partners. For this, a data liaison, or someone on the practice side that understands and has the appropriate authority to handle data and provide it in appropriate parcels to the research partner, can be an essential role to fill.

When university-based researchers lack administrative permissions to directly access data, some partnerships have gotten creative, embedding the researchers at the partner agency site. Sometimes, the researcher is even employed by the partnering agency. This arrangement removes limitations that might otherwise inhibit the research partner’s direct access, while also supporting communication between partners by having a researcher on site who is familiar with the partner’s environment, protocols, and professional culture.

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Developing Data Sharing Agreements