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Tools for Data Sharing

Focus Area: Transparency

Tools for Data Sharing

Access to and sharing of clinical research data are essential for the advancement of science. Over the last decade, the movement towards publicly and privately-funded research data to be openly available has markedly increased. Data sharing allows sponsors and investigators to honor the essential contributions and volunteerism of clinical trial participants, to ensure reproducibility, and to enable the maximal use of data by the research community.

Despite investigators’ willingness to share data, the data sharing process is often impeded by contractual disagreements and ambiguous standards of data anonymization. Contractual barriers to data sharing, such as restrictive terms of data use and data contribution, as well as inconsistencies in data sharing governance procedures, delay data integration by researchers using previously gathered data (secondary researchers). Ambiguous standards of data anonymization pose additional challenges, as existing policies and guidelines are largely silent on de-identifying data in a manner that preserves scientific utility. As we move toward a landscape wherein source data, study documents, and published manuscripts are made increasingly available, the need for tools that streamline contractual processes, protect participant privacy, and maintain the scientific utility of data continues to grow.

In 2014, the MRCT Center, along with several partners, performed a retrospective analysis of data sharing language in informed consent forms. Subsequently, the MRCT Center published draft Data Contributor Agreement and Informed Consent Form templates.  In 2017, the MRCT Center undertook efforts to develop a roadmap for harmonizing standards of data anonymization with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). We continued and expanded in 2017/2018 in partnership with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Together with the PCORI Open Science Pilot Project, the MRCT Center developed three harmonized governance tools for data sharing.

  • Data Contributor Agreement (DCA) TemplateThe DCA template clarifies data contributor responsibilities, institutional safeguards, and requirements for the deposition of data in a data repository.
  • Data Use Agreement (DUA) Template: The DUA template delineates responsibilities and requirements for requesters of data from data repositories.
  • Data Sharing Template Section for Participants: Clear, health literate informed consent language enables participants to understand secondary use of collected data elements for open science, explaining complex concepts simply. Clear communication helps to promote participant autonomy.

Current Status: Active Project

Impact: Development of tools for data sharing enhances data transparency and collaboration, reduces administrative barriers, and shortens the time to new discovery.


  • To lower the barriers to data sharing while preserving participant privacy and autonomy
  • To respect the interests of data generators, data users, funders, and patients/participants through multi-stakeholder engagement


Key Milestones:

Related External Links: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

Project Leadership:

  • Barbara E. Bierer, MD. Faculty Director, MRCT Center
  • Jason Gerson, PhD. Senior Program Officer, PCORI
  • Jane Perlmutter, PhD.  President, Gemini Group

Contact Information: