As advocates for the Australian Research and Education community, and providers of essential research enabling infrastructure, AARNet provided feedback on the proposed Data Sharing and Release legislation issued by the Australian government earlier this year.
The proposed legislation aims to balance sharing data held by the government with appropriate risk management, to ensure a growing economy, improved service delivery and transformed policy outcomes for all Australians.
In our response, we noted that research is increasingly data and technology intensive and the demand for access to government data across all research disciplines is high. Establishing principles for the approach to enabling access to government data – and the means for operationalising this – both need to be considered. The removal of legislative and procedural barriers both aid in unlocking government data.
The suggested use of the five-safes framework by which to determine appropriate data sharing and release is supported by AARNet. The Australian research community has processes in place to determine safe people, projects, settings, data and outputs, mostly available through the competitive research funding landscape, and the checks and balances established within this, through institutional ethics procedures.
It is recommended that these existing research management processes are leveraged to determine the appropriateness of data sharing and release to the research sector, such that there is a lessened burden for this community to provide this to government anew.
The research sector has research and data infrastructure specialists (for example, the sensitive data linkage experts, PHRN) and service providers (AARNet and Australian Access Federation-AAF) with the expertise to technically broker and enable safe sharing and storage of research data amongst trusted entities.
Technical requirements should feature more prominently in any proposed legislative change, and the operationalising of data sharing and release, where that data is exchanged between the government and the research sector.
AARNet also supports the cultural change required for government data to be better valued and repurposed.
This cultural change is already underway in the research community, and existing expertise and technical advancements in the research sector can assist with this change in government. The cultural change necessitated for successful data reuse is perhaps the most critical piece in the puzzle, and needs to be further developed to ensure success of the proposed approach.
The incentives and priorities set through new legislation, and the establishment of managed services on top of connected cyber-infrastructures to support new procedural conventions, need to serve the digital transformation of government and research.
AARNet was one of 107 entities to submit feedback on the proposed legislation: view all the published submissions (external website)
May 25, 2020