3. Data sharing agreements

The following chapter describes strategies for enhancing data sharing through common research project documents and agreements. These are particularly relevant in funded research involving multiple partners and stakeholders, where there is a collective interest in contributing to or accessing data. The three first agreements ((3.1 Funding agreement, 3.2 Consortium agreement and 3.3 Data management plan) are in the context of a project structure, the agreements described from 3.4 and onwards are more general agreements, also suited outside of a project consortium.

The initial process of setting up a project is crucial to enable data to be shared during and after a project.  While agreements can be renegotiated, this process is often time-consuming and costly, especially in large consortia operating under pre-established conditions. Project agreements address various topics, with only a subset directly related to data sharing. Therefore, the time spent during the project application and at the beginning of the project to agree on the conditions for data access and use (including data re-use after the project) is well invested.

The funding agreement (including the work description) and the consortium agreement among project partners are the main documents to focus on initially.

It has become increasingly common during the project to draft a data management plan, which outlines how data will be collected, managed, and shared among project partners. Later, during the project and its data collection (which may include personal and confidential data), participant agreements and any agreements with data providers are important to define the conditions and scope for data re-use and management. Participant agreement and data provider agreements are important in the case of data re-use.

It may be necessary to have an agreement between actors in a common data space or a data repository. The agreement outlines the terms and conditions for data sharing between different actors within the data space, defining each actor’s roles and responsibilities and specifying the conditions for joining, accessing and using data. Ensuring all actors are aligned on data sharing terms and conditions is crucial.

There may be overlap on the matters relating to data sharing between these documents. Where there is overlap between project documents, it is imperative that the terms do not conflict or contradict each other.

Figure 2. Project documents and how they may overlap on data topics.

This chapter discusses which topics to concentrate on, from a data-sharing perspective, for each specific project document.