Key Elements of Data Sharing Agreements

Last Updated: March 06, 2023

The general elements of a data sharing agreement are listed below, adapted from the list published in Urban Institute’s Measuring Performance: A Guidance Document for Promise Neighborhoods on Collecting Data and Reporting Results.

1. Purpose and intended use of data sharing—This section sets out in general terms the data to be shared, the organizations involved, and how the data are to be used. This language must be consistent with the consent agreement.

2. Period of agreement—This specifies the term for which the data sharing agreement is valid. Individual parties to the data sharing agreement should have the right to terminate their participation with adequate notice.

3. Description of data—This provides a more precise description of the data to be shared, with the exact fields listed in an attachment. For consistency’s sake, the list of fields should match the description of data to be shared in the written consent agreement.

4. Timing and frequency of updates—As data are to be provided on an ongoing basis, it is important to specify when new data should be shared.

5. Custodial responsibility and data stewardship—This section establishes the responsibility for maintenance of data security. This should include the secure process for transmitting the file and any particular file format. If there are special circumstances regarding data access, they can be specified here.

6. Roles and responsibilities—This section specifies the individuals in the organizations with responsibility for the data.

7. Permissible data use, linking and sharing under this agreement—The exact rules for use of the data by the receiving organization, including access rights and sharing of data with other organizations. This should be in compliance with the requirements specified when the data was collected.

8. Resources and costs of data sharing and data management—If necessary, the agreement can stipulate which organizations will be responsible for specific data sharing costs. 9. No warranty for data or linkage quality—This section provides protection for the receiving organization, which commits to make reasonable efforts to promote data quality, but does not guarantee any specific standard.

9. Indemnification—This clause provides that in the case of legal claims against any of the parties to the agreement, normal legal rules and principles will apply, and states that if one party becomes aware of a claim against the other, they should inform the other party in a timely manner.

10. Publication and dissemination of results—This clause provides for review of any results to be disseminated, including review to make sure that third party researchers protect the confidentiality of individuals when publishing findings. Such restrictions should not allow arbitrary or unwarranted suppression of data, but be limited to protecting the privacy rights of individuals. It may also specify proper citation of the data source or any disclaimer required on reports.

11. Termination and modification of this agreement—It is helpful to include the conditions under which the agreement can be terminated. Note that this clause also includes direction on how data are to be disposed of after termination.

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