In spring 2019 the ODI published research which found that data institutions – for example data clubs, data trusts, cooperatives and other models – could be a useful way of increasing access to data while retaining trust.

Since then there has been a significant interest in the scoping, design and creation of new data institutions across a range of sectors. Many organisations are currently exploring the potential value of setting up a data institution of some kind, with some projects already underway. But there are still many uncertainties as to how they might be set up most effectively and become sustainable in the long term.

Through the projects outlined below, the ODI aims to identify the mechanisms that contribute to trustworthiness, and the factors that may promote sustainability, providing practical and implementable advice to those considering setting up a data institution.

Trustworthy data institutions

This project aims to explore some of the mechanisms that might be used to determine trustworthiness in a data institution, which may include: guidance and tools for better setup and operations, regulation, ways of checking and certifying or accrediting the people, organisations, processes and tools involved. These mechanisms can then be considered and/or implemented when creating a data institution, to increase trustworthiness.

Trustworthiness of data institutions: why it matters

  • Project: January–March 2020

The concept of data institutions is relatively new and with the majority of established examples being in their infancy, there are still a lot of unknowns. There is a possibility that some data institutions, however well intentioned, will fail to operate in an effective and trustworthy way, which could lead to harming people or damaging the concepts of data institutions more broadly. This also makes it difficult, for example, for data holders to assess whether they should work with a given data institution.

Determining the mechanisms that increase trustworthiness can:

  • reduce risk
  • increase confidence in creating and interacting with data instituions
  • improve perceptions

Creating trustworthy data institutions also contributes more widely to a vision of creating an open and trustworthy data ecosystem.

Sustainable data institutions

While there is existing evidence around how some institutional models, like data clubs, can be made sustainable, the revenue models and approach to sustainability are not well documented.

This project aims to explore the process by which data institutions become sustainable, exploring how they initially get funded, through to the range of revenue and business models that they might adopt to achieve sustainability. The project will also explore how different revenue models might be better suited for different types of institution.

Sustainable data institutions: why are they important?

  • Project: January–March 2020

While a growing interest in creating data institutions is good news from a data stewardship perspective, ideally they would be set up with a clear plan to achieve sustainability. This will help to increase support, build trust and unlock initial funding. By understanding the factors that contribute towards creating sustainable institutions, we hope to support the development of a range of new institutions. Increasing the number of well-designed and sustainable data institutions will ultimately increase access to data.