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Enabling data sharing for social benefit through data trusts

Effective data stewardship is essential for a variety of public policy goals and for realising the wider economic value of data. Innovative new forms of collaborative data stewardship are emerging, including data trusts. Data trusts are a form of data institution whose core characteristics include independent stewardship of data rights, collectivisation and collective action, and institutional safeguards to manage the vulnerabilities associated with data use. Data trusts are a promising tool to empower individuals and communities. However, important challenges must be addressed to establish data trusts including: a pressing need to create consensus around their core features, the extent to which those features can function across jurisdictions and borders, and a range of operational considerations for implementation such as long-term financial sustainability, technical architectures, and mechanisms for accountability.

This project will support the creation of real-world data trusts that enable data sharing for social benefit. It will support new institutions that empower individuals and communities to enact their data rights, ensuring that data sharing activities reflect the diverse interests of all in society. The end goal is to help GPAI realise the potential of data trusts as a tool to promote the safe, fair, legal and equitable sharing of data, in service of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Short-term objectives

The short-term outputs of the project include:

  • A GPAI consensus statement on tenets of a data trust, setting out the role of these data institutions and the principles or core attributes that inform their ways of working.
  • An initial survey of existing data institutions, exploring how different efforts have implemented core features of a data trust.
  • A scoping review of current legal frameworks for the development of data trusts across jurisdictions, identifying areas of uncertainty (for example, rights relating to co-generated data) or need (for example, structures for accountability or safeguarding in the event of institutional failure).
  • Subject to other working group’s plans, scoped pilot data trusts that could be implemented through a future partnership could result from working groups collaboration.

Call for proposals (deadline 18 June 2021)