Datatrust Governance and Policies: Questions, Concerns and Bright Ideas.
A running list of open issues for governing a datatrust.
- What is the datatrust? What is its purpose?
- Who builds the datatrust technology? Who gets to use it?
- Who holds the data?
- Who runs the datatrust and how?
- The Community.
- The Board.
- The Staff.
- How is the datatrust funded?
- How do we monitor datatrust health?
- Can the datatrust change its mission? Does it have a living will?
IX. HOW IS THE DATATRUST FUNDED?
We are currently looking for foundation funding to support the development of our datatrust prototype, including testing it with real data.
In the long-term, we will explore other ways of sustaining the organization. With any funding structure, our goal is to incentive the organization to place the needs of its users first and foremost; and by "users" we mean a large, diverse pool of users, not a few large institutional users. We think it is important that the datatrust is significantly "self-funded" with small payments from as many of its users as possible.
- Will we charge fees to use data? How would a fee structure work? What metrics do we use to monitor the fee structure to ensure that it is enabling a diverse and healthy Data User community?
- How do we prevent a single large-scale user from gaining undue influence?
- Will we allow people to become members by paying the fee but not donating any data themselves?
- Will we monetize access to the data in other ways?
X. HOW DO WE MONITOR DATATRUST HEALTH? HOW WILL WE PREVENT ABUSE?
We will work harder than any organization to make operations transparent and accountable. We will issue real-time reports that provide frequent, regular assessments of the data in the datatrust, including the demographic spread of data contributions and data users. This will be available to community members and the general public.
We will open ourselves to regular audits, both internal and external, of our data reports and our datatrust technologies.
What metrics will be important to monitoring the health of the datatrust?
- Volume of donations and usage activity.
- Diversity of donations and Data Users.
- Rate of curation; volume of un-curated data.
- Membership growth rates.
- Frequency of software updates. Diversity of software donations. Results of regular audits.
Who will oversee the monitoring process?
Datatrust staff will conduct internal audits and compile reports to be reviewed by the Board and released to the public.
XI. CAN THE DATATRUST CHANGE ITS MISSION? DOES IT HAVE A LIVING WILL?
As a not-for-profit, The Common Data Project's assets can only be transferred to another not-for-profit. Still, we are concerned about the possibility of management change bringing uncertainty to the obligations the organization has to its community.
As the value of the data in the datatrust grows, the temptation to profit from it will grow. To prevent abuse, the datatrust should have a few “last-resort” options to enable whistle-blowers (whether from the staff, the community, or the board) to exercise veto power to prevent the organization from “going off the rails.” These options might include:
- By-laws and contractual "poison pills” placing responsibility on the Board to monitor fancy legal maneuvers that violate the spirit of the datatrusts obligations to its donors.
- Prepare a living will and set aside a shutdown fund to take the necessary steps to destroy the data in the datatrust should the Board decide that circumstances merit it.