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Federal Demonstration Partnership looks to take the hassle out of DUAs

A detailed article on the template data use agreements created by the Federal Demonstration Partnership, and their potential to streamline the DUA negotiation process – including access to the full-text templates – appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

Data use agreements (DUAs), sometimes known as data transfer agreements, are demanding more and more attention from technology transfer offices as data repositories drive a growing number of innovations in the digital age. The biggest problem many TTOs have with DUAs is the sheer volume, and the time it takes staff to wade through and complete as well as log them. Each university may have its own agreement template, and in some cases one office may be responsible for handling incoming data, while another is responsible for sharing outgoing data. Depending on the type of data to be exchanged, there may be specific compliance requirements, such as with HIPAA or FERPA.

For offices swamped with these routine but important agreements, there is help. The Data Stewardship Committee of the Federal Demonstration Partnership has designed a template that can significantly speed up the process for those universities who opt to use it. It was first unveiled in a pilot project in 2017, yet many offices continue to use their own agreements, creating unnecessary additional work and friction. (TTT subscribers can access the DUA templates here.)  

According to Jennifer Murphy, director of research agreements and contracting at Brown University, “that first iteration was the result of members of the FDP discussing how we all have different DUAs, and we were spending increasingly crazy amounts of time reviewing DUAs. It was in response to [the question], ‘Can we all come together and make one thing we can agree to use?’” The template is strictly for academic and nonprofit use where intellectual property is not an issue.

“It was also done in the context of greater scrutiny on data sharing — the appropriateness of it,” says Diana Boeglin, senior contracts manager at the University of Iowa. “When a lot of stories started hitting the news about companies sharing data inappropriately, a lot of universities decided to take a closer look at their own practices and make sure what they were doing was more compliant, as well as strengthening data terms around HIPAA.” The initial working group included individuals from 30 universities and two federal agencies.

“We’ve actually come up with some really nice data [indicating] that schools like the DUA because it takes the pressure off of negotiating terms,” continues Boeglin. “They are consistent — we can do this quick and easy passing it back and forth once we make sure all the facts and content is correct. It puts more of the administrative focus on ensuring compliance, internally and externally. In doing that, schools are more confident that when they do share data, they are doing it appropriately and with all of the correct controls in place.”

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