What Is A Data Trust?

A data trust is a legal structure that allows organisations to share their data in a secure way. It enables interested parties to apply advanced analytics and AI to the data and drive transformational change across the industry.

The Open Data Institute define a data trust as “a legal structure that provides independent stewardship of data. The organisations that collect and hold data permit an independent institution to make decisions about how that data is used and shared for an agreed purpose. The data trust becomes a steward of the data, taking responsibility to make decisions about the data and ensure they support the data trust’s purpose”.

Ultimately, the purpose of a data trust is to join together data from projects so that approved parties can leverage insights from it. It is important to highlight that the data trust does not seek to create a set of big data that would be available to the public, as this would discourage organisations from providing complete and unmodified data. This would go against the aims of a data trust. Instead, the data trust makes the data available to specific parties, for agreed purposes, with specific conditions. The intention is to reform how projects are managed, and provide the confidence to deliver them successfully.

The data trust will be managed by trustees who will allow the data providers to have a say in how their data is used. This will allow them to maintain control over their data, including a right of veto.

This is a useful document that provides an overview of what the Open Data Institute considers a data trust to be. It should be noted that this is a broad definition considering applications from public health data through to commercially sensitive data. The ODI also states that a one size fits all model is unlikely to work, hence it needs to be tailored to the application.