Step 1: Decide how widely you need or want to share data

Data exists on a spectrum, from closed to shared to open. This spectrum (Figure 1 and the box below) can help when considering how widely data needs to be shared, which can inform the type of agreement for sharing data required, and if or where technology can support the sharing of data.

By making data as open as possible – while protecting people from harmful impacts – we can unlock more value from it. Data that is as open as possible is available to more people, with fewer restrictions on how it can be used. This creates opportunities for that data to be used in innovative ways.

By its nature, health data often contains personal or sensitive information and therefore will often sit in the ‘shared’ part of the Data Spectrum. The playbook section on managing risk when using personal data will help you consider how widely the data is suitable for sharing.

When you have decided where the dataset you need to share sits on the Data Spectrum, you then need choose which type of agreement is best suited to support the data sharing activity.

Closed data is data that is held privately within an organisation, such as employment contracts and policies, or asset registers of healthcare equipment. This data is not usually shared externally.

Shared data is data that is only available to certain people or groups, such as researchers, alliances and networks. Data that is shared will typically be made available for specific purposes that are defined by a data sharing agreement.

Public data is data that is visible to everyone, but with limited or unclear rights. Just because something is visible online, it doesn't mean you can freely make use of it. To reuse public data, it is necessary to approach the rights holder to establish if it can be reused freely or if there are restrictions.

Open data is data that is available for anyone to access, use and share. It is usually published under an open licence that allows it to be used for any purpose.

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