What is a data trust?

Essay by Jack Hardinges at ODI: “There are different interpretations of what a data trust is, or should be…

There’s not a well-used definition of ‘a data trust’, or even consensus on what one is. Much of the recent interest in data trusts in the UK has been fuelled by them being recommended as a way to ‘share data in a fair, safe and equitable way’ by a UK government-commissioned independent review into Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2017. However, there has been wider international interest in the concept for some time.

At a very high level, the aim of data trusts appears to be to give people and organisations confidence when enabling access to data in ways that provide them with some value (either directly or indirectly) in return. Beyond that high level goal, there are a variety of thoughts about what form they should take. In our work so far, we’ve found different interpretations of the term ‘data trust’:

  • A data trust as a repeatable framework of terms and mechanisms.
  • A data trust as a mutual organisation.
  • A data trust as a legal structure.
  • A data trust as a store of data.
  • A data trust as public oversight of data access….(More)”