Research Australia has been advocating for many years for improved access to public data for research. We made submissions to the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. Strongly supportive of the Commission’s recommendations, we have worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the consultations which have culminated in the release of the Data Availability and Transparency Bill exposure draft and the proposed Accreditation Framework.
The Draft Bill and accompanying Accreditation Framework for researchers are broadly in line with previous consultations and discussions. Research Australia has made some recommendations designed to improve the operation of the legislation and the Framework.
Research Australia’s submission is available here.
We expect the legislation to be introduced to Parliament in 2021.
The Productivity Commission has recommended that if Australia is to make better use of Government held data, including for research purposes, the law needs to be changed. The Government has acted on three key recommendations of the Productivity Commission in its proposal for new Data Sharing and Release legislation. This includes providing a new framework and guidance for the release of data by Government departments and agencies; creation of a new National Data Commissioner (NDC), to oversee the Framework and champion the release and use of data; and the creation of accredited ‘trusted users’ to facilitate access to data by researchers.
Research Australia’s submission is broadly supportive of the proposals in the Paper but has suggested an expanded role for the NDC and raised some concerns about how the accreditation of ‘trusted users’ will be implemented. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has committed to further consultation and we await the development of draft legislation by the end of 2018.
Research Australia’s submission
The Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Public Sector Data Availability and Use, part of a 12 month Inquiry, has highlighted the public benefits of improving access to public data and has proposed significant reforms, including to improve access to data for researchers and to make researchers’ own data more accessible. While Research Australia is broadly supportive of the Commission’s draft recommendations, we have made substantive responses in relation to a number; particularly some that would affect the way research is conducted and funded.
As the quantities of data collected about all of us grows, so does our capacity to utilise this data for the benefit of all. As the Draft Report has identified, there is evidence that community attitudes to data and questions of privacy and security are changing, and legislation and government practices need to change to both reflect this change and enable us to harness this data as a valuable resource. Now is the time to act if we are to make the most of the opportunities public data provides to improve the delivery of government services and the health of our community, and to create the new economic opportunities and jobs of tomorrow. The Commission’s Draft Report is a very important step in what Research Australia acknowledges will be a long but fruitful journey in harnessing the transformative power of data in contemporary society.
Response to Productivity Commission Data Availability Draft Report December 2016