Project agreements - Integrating authorities and data users

Data access agreements with data users should set out the conditions and arrangements for accessing the integrated data for research and analysis. The conditions and nature of access may vary from project to project according to the requirements of data custodians.

 Irrespective of the agreement model used for the project, data access agreements between integrating authorities and data users should cover the following elements:

Project administration elements

  • confidentiality, privacy and security obligations, including any need to sign undertakings and any instructions for storage of the data;
  • a description of the approved uses of the data and a prohibition on use for any other reason or in any other manner;
  • consequences of identification (or re-identification) of individuals or businesses, misuse of the data, violation of data access arrangements or other key obligations in the agreement (for example, penalties or the imposition of sanctions if these are to be imposed by the integrating authority);
  • a right of the integrating authority (and the data custodian(s)) to audit each data user’s use of the integrated data and access relevant material held by the data user;
  • intellectual property issues (setting out who owns the integrated data, any software needed to access or manipulate the data and the resulting research conducted using the data);
  • any provisions dealing with the publication of the research from the data, for example, acknowledgements or approval from the data custodian before publishing results;
  • details on cost recovery [1. Cost recovery by Commonwealth agencies must comply with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines (July 2005) published by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.]
  • any special conditions to which data users must adhere, for example, return of the data;
  • specific details on governance protocols for examining data quality and software issues;
  • any provisions required to meet Commonwealth policy requirements (if the user is not part of the Commonwealth).

Project specific elements

  • a description of the project, including the project objectives;
  • a description of the integrated data to be provided to the data user;

Standard contract clauses

  • a statement of whether or not the document is intended to be legally binding;
  • liability (for legally binding contracts) or responsibility issues (for example, acknowledgement of the parties that while care has been taken to assure the quality of the data, it is provided ‘as is’ with no warranties, and obligation on data users to include appropriate disclaimers in publications);
  • standard clauses such as the date the agreement takes effect, the date it expires, provisions to terminate the agreement, definitions and dispute resolution;

Additional undertakings

In addition to the data access agreement with the integrating authority, some data custodians may also require data users to sign legal undertakings detailing how the data can be used. This requirement is often a condition of ethics and other approval processes associated with projects, and is sometimes a legislative requirement. Undertakings will vary between organisations but may include clauses around disclosure, access and use. For example, the undertaking may include clauses stating that:

  • unit record data will not be matched, in whole or part, with other information for the purposes of identifying individual records;
  • unit record data will not be disclosed to anyone (including others in the researcher’s organisation) except as aggregated statistical information that does not identify individuals or organisations;
  • information will only be used for statistical purposes or for research in a particular field; or will only be used for the statistical and research purposes cleared by the relevant HREC.

To assist in the preparation of agreements, some sample agreements  have been provided in this guide.

For related information on Drafting Project Agreements see: