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Data Trustees for Science

RatSWD Working Group in the 8th appointment period (2023–2026)

Merging data sets, especially across different data producers and providers, has enor-mous potential for researching societal issues. At present in Germany, the merging of data for scientific use is often hampered or even prevented by the different legal bases of the institutions involved and by data protection concerns. Concerns about a ‘transparent citizen’ also play a role that should not be underestimated. Data trustee models offer the opportunity to overcome these hurdles and realise the potential of possible data pooling for research. Demands for data trustee models, such as those modelled after the Austrian Microdata Center, are not new. Most recently, the German Council of Economic Experts emphasised the need to pool data via data trustees in its report from 2023.

Against this background, the Working Group “Data Trustees for Science” is exploring the following questions:

  • What different models of data trustees are conceivable and which are currently being discussed?
  • What does a data trustee model for the social and economic sciences ideally look like?
  • And what procedural issues and functionalities would need to be considered?

The discussion cannot take place in a vacuum; there are framework conditions that must be taken into account when developing a data trustee model for science. In particular, it is necessary to clarify the relationship between the data trustee and the existing successful Research Data Center (RDC) structure. European legislative developments also play a role, such as the newly emerging data spaces and the European Data Governance Act.

Clarifying these questions is necessary for the successful establishment of a data trustee for science. This would be an important step towards strengthening the research data infrastructure and thus Germany as a centre of science.

Output: Publication in the RatSWD Output Series, development of position papers and organisation of a workshop.