50+ Sample Data Sharing Agreements

What Is a Data Sharing Agreement?

A data-sharing agreement is a legal and formal agreement that accurately documents and classifies shared data and defines its use. Data-sharing agreements serve two purposes; first, it protects the entity that provides the information with the data misuse securities. Second, it prevents instances of miscommunication between the provider and the agency responsible for acquiring knowledge by thoroughly discussing its usage. Before the data sharing process, the provider and sharer address data sharing and data use issues through in-person meetings or phone conversations. The method establishes a collaborative arrangement that will be part of the data-sharing agreement. The agreement institutes provisions relating to sharing and dissemination of information. It is also advisable to refrain from engaging in these practices seek to disclose personal or private information.

According to Statista’s statistical data regarding consumer attitudes toward sharing personal data with companies for 2020 dated April 2021, survey data shows that a majority of respondents, amounting to 38 percent of the survey population, were happy to share their data with companies if it improves the experience. Meanwhile, about 30 percent of participants did not want to release any more unnecessary information to companies.

Components of a Data Sharing Agreement

A data-sharing agreement focuses on various aspects of sharing information between two organizations, a provider and a sharer. Below, you will find general elements of a data-sharing agreement with their respective descriptions. Each data sharing agreement is unique on its own and contains some, if not all, of the components below. Researchers or data providers must identify which of the following elements goes on the agreement.

Details of authorized entity sharing data: Identify the organization or individuals responsible for providing authorized data as requested for research. The researchers also begin discussions of data use with entities that provide the information while negotiating with another organization or individual for permission on data usage. The data-sharing agreement must hold legal authorization in the form of signatures from the data-providing agencies.Information of the entity requesting for the data: The agreement indicates the lead researcher’s contact information in requesting for the data, and the information of the research organization that has the legal authority to sign the data-sharing agreement to ensure that all provisions and regulations under the arrangement are complete.Project contacts and researchers: The data-sharing agreement must contain helpful information, including a contact list of state agencies and the research team. It is also advisable to include the contact information of the research staff responsible for accessing the data. The document must also distinguish a revision process for replacing, removing, or adding contacts and members of the research team in cases of line-up changes during the agreement’s term.  Purpose of data request: A clear and concise statement of purpose of research and outline of research questions must be present on the agreement. The section also lists the particular benefits of the project to the state agency. In doing this, it will be easier to reach and agree on data-sharing conditions for projects aligned with the needs of an agency.Data elements request: Academic researchers and state agencies work together to classify the required data elements to answer the list of research questions. It includes outlining the timeline of required data in months and years to help the state agency to help identify the data sets containing the information. The section of the data-sharing agreement also includes the title and formatting of the data element and the data sets where these are present. In instances of creating new data sets, the document identifies who shoulders the responsibility of its creation. Research projects sometimes require data linking across various projects or databases. It must describe a comprehensive process of data linking databases and the responsible entity for fulfilling it. The section also identifies the documentation, in the form of a user guide or instructional manual, the state agency provides the researchers understand various data elements.Data use duration: There must be a definite timeline agreed upon by both parties, including its termination date. The end date agreed upon must allow the researching team ample time to analyze valuable data, create written reports, and address additional questions or data analysis. The length of data use extends over months or years, depending on the agreement.Security guidelines and expectations: The data-sharing agreement must describe security precautions and measures regarding data management, storage, and administration. It must detail the process of handling and managing personally identifiable information (PII) and how the research team plans to protect it. The agreement must follow agency or state-specific requirements for data security. The responsibility to handle these regulations and provisions passes over to the research team currently handling the data. It must also identify the individual or entities handling sourced data. For security purposes, the agreement can also declare a limit on the individuals working on the research project having access to the information.Roles and responsibilities of parties: The section describes the organizations’ responsibilities, including funding work, merging data sets, answering questions, and identifying rules and regulations of suppressing results.Compensation: If the research organization plans on giving any form of compensation to agency staff helping with the work, it must be written on the agreement. However, if the agency staff is not receiving work payments, it must also reflect on the agreement.Ownership of final data: The document explicitly details who owns the final data set after producing a finalized report or research study. The agreement indicates if the research team makes the discoveries accessible to the state agency if new variables are present. Likewise, the state agency can file for a copy of these variables.Review of publication: State agencies reserve the right to review or approve reports, articles, or any publication before its release. An arrangement must also exist between the agency and the organization regarding the review process.Requirement of approval: If there is a requirement of other approvals, including the Institutional Review Board, the agreement must incorporate these and the party seeking the approval process.Breach report protocol: Guarantee that the agreement contains a comprehensive process when dealing with security breaches of contract and other issues regarding data usage, and it is especially critical in dealing with PII data.Expectations from the disposal of used data after the project: State regulations cover safe destruction of data, including the use of particular software programs for data removal from a computer. The state agency and lead research must conjure a plan to destroy information by the project’s end.Expectations regarding retention of re-identified data for restricted access: A funder may require data archiving for restricted access in the future. Both parties must have an arrangement regarding the procedures for retaining re-identified data for restricted access.Expectations from modification or changes to the agreement: Introducing a guide regarding modifications to the agreement that warrants a revision due to unforeseen circumstances. It specifies changes made without approval and the process of requesting alterations.

How To Develop a Data Sharing Agreement

Research with administrative data requires a strong relationship between the research team and the agency overseeing the information. The guide below allows you to maintain productive research arrangements with a state agency.

Step 1: Identify necessary data to answer research questions

The initial step to writing a data-sharing agreement is to identify the data elements to satisfy research questions. The information resides on various databases, and it is wise to develop a list of required data elements to secure its location. On the occasion of merging data sets, the parties must identify who initiates merging and how the merger happens. Consult with agency staff that has previous experience with data retrieval and data collection.

Step 2: Distinguish Organizations Overseeing, Managing, and Owning Data

Researchers must identify which agency or organization holds and who manages the data elements to answer research questions. When multiple organizations hold the necessary information, take note of the various requirements for securing data sets. If required data are within local agencies, the lead researcher must construct multiple data-sharing agreements for these organizations.

Step 3: Indicate Individuals Responsible for Developing, Reviewing, and Approving the Data Sharing Agreement

Researchers and agency staff work to develop, review its content, sign and approve the agreement. If the agency has a legal staff that can help identify the components for writing the draft, including identifying and addressing legal concerns and provisions. Researchers and agency staff must develop a clear timeline to create and execute the agreement.

Step 4: Develop a Draft of the Data Sharing Agreement

Start with an existing data-sharing agreement template. If the state agency holding the data elements have a template, follow it and the procedures coming from the agency. If no template exists, work with the state agency in drafting the data-sharing agreement. It helps to make references from data-sharing agreements from individuals with experience. Consulting with the legal department daily to identify and resolve issues is also helpful. Remember to review federal policies concerning administrative data use.

Step 5: Share Copies of the Draft Agreement

After developing the first draft of the data-sharing agreement, the respective entities from both organizations must review its content. If questions and concerns arise, the researchers and agency must implement revisions to the agreement as necessary. If there are issues that need resolution, schedule a meeting to discuss these concerns.

Step 6: Finalize the Agreement and Obtain Signatures for Approval

After settling all issues, concerns, and revisions, authorized representatives from each organization, the provider and receiver of information, must sign the agreement.


Is a data-sharing agreement a legally binding document?

While some organizations prefer legally binding agreements for limited liabilities and indemnification responsibilities, data-sharing agreements are not required to be legally binding documents, so long as security requirements for data use, protection, and confidentiality provisions are met.

Organizations do not always need consent to acquire personal information. It can only be done if and when organizations have valid reasons for utilizing the data. These reasons are under the law and are known to be the lawful basis. There are six lawful bases under the law, including consent, contract, legal obligation, vital interests, public task, and legitimate interests.

What are the benefits of data sharing?

Data sharing makes information available upon request. However, data sharing effectively gives various benefits, including improved discoverability, citability, and stability for researchers and students alike.

Data sharing in its entirety is a long and critical process. Researchers must recognize the need to establish a trusting relationship with organizations providing the data elements they need for a study. They must also plan efficiently and effectively by creating lists, citing research questions, and consulting with an expert during the process of drafting the agreement. As much as possible, if the agency provides a template, utilize it to the best of your ability while following the procedures and provisions set by the data provider. For your reference, the article above contains more than 50 data-sharing agreement samples for use and download.