Data users

Data users, or researchers, include academics working in research institutions and employees in State/Territory government agencies undertaking research. Data users directly access and investigate integrated datasets at the unit record level for statistical and research purposes. In contrast, end users examine and use the research findings and outputs of data users in aggregate format to do secondary research and analysis.

The Commonwealth arrangements mean that data users will access integrated datasets, for analysis purposes, through secure arrangements provided by the integrating authority. Access to integrated datasets will only be granted subject to the approval of the data custodians involved in the integration project.

The High Level Principles and supporting governance and institutional arrangements represent a significant change in a number of the roles and responsibilities for data users (researchers) in relation to integration projects involving Commonwealth data. In the past, researchers often handled the data merging and data access for a project. For projects involving Commonwealth data, these roles are now carried out by an integrating authority.

For more information on what a data user should consider when undertaking a data integration project involving Commonwealth data, see A checklist for data users.

The five main roles of data users in data integration projects are:

Role 1 • Develop research proposals that produce significant overall public benefit

A key role for data users is to develop project proposals that make the best use of integrated datasets. These proposals need to take into account the public good which can be derived from a data integration project (e.g. the social, economic, environmental or scientific benefits). The public benefit derived from a project should outweigh the imposition to privacy and any risks to the trust and goodwill that the Australian public has in Commonwealth data collection activities.

In developing the project proposal, data users may need to consult with the data custodian(s) to clarify some of the details for the project, particularly around the data items required for the project.

In some circumstances an integrating authority may assist with the preparation of the project proposal. In such circumstances it should be noted that the final decision concerning which integrating authority to appoint will remain subject to the outcome of the risk assessment

Role 2 • Collaborate with the integrating authority and data custodians to get projects approved

Following the development of the research proposal and once data custodians have given in principle approval for the project to proceed, data users need to collaborate with integrating authorities and data custodians to finalise the details of the project before final approval is given for the project to proceed.

Role 3 • Enter into agreements with integrating authorities to ensure the safe management and use of datasets

Agreements between the integrating authority and the data users should be prepared and signed as part of the process leading to final approval of the project. These agreements should be in a form approved by the data custodians and set out the conditions and arrangements for accessing the integrated data for research and analysis, consistent with the requirements of data custodians. This agreement may take the form of a contract, Memorandum of Understanding or other arrangement as appropriate for the parties concerned.

Role 4 • Access integrated datasets through secure arrangements in order to conduct analysis for statistical and research purposes

To ensure the security and confidentiality of the data, it is recommended that data users only access integrated datasets through secure arrangements provided by the integrating authority. To comply with the Commonwealth arrangements the data should be in a form that is not likely to enable the identification of individuals or businesses, although in some circumstances, where legislation permits, access may be given to data that has been de-identified but not confidentialised. Access to identified data for statistical and research purposes, outside secure and trusted institutional environments is not recommended unless permitted by legislation, it is necessary to achieve the approved purpose of the project, and is agreed by the data custodians (see High Level Principle 6)

Each data user must be named in the project proposal and data custodians may require each data user to sign confidentiality agreements that specify the conditions for access and use of the data.

Role 5 • Liaise with data custodians on the valid uses of integrated datasets

It is expected that in many cases data custodians will require the data users to consult with them regarding valid uses of the integrated dataset before the publication of the research findings. This could include, for example, data users checking with data custodians that data has been interpreted correctly or appropriately confidentialised. If required, this should be specified in the agreements between the integrating authority and the data users.

For roles and responsibilities of key players in a data integration project see: