News from the Chairs of the Data Governance Committee and the Data Governance Advisory Group – Academic Year 2016-2017

During the 2016-17 academic year of the Data Governance Committee met four times.  

In the introductory meeting the group discussed background information on the "state of data" at Brown and the role of data governance in helping to keep data secure while helping to make it more accessible to those with a legitimate need for the information. 

The key assumptions of the data governance committee and advisory group include:

  • Institutional data are valuable assets and must be treated as such
  • Access to accurate and consistent data is essential to informed decision making across the University
  • Brown should have and enforce a set of data usage and access rules.
  • Data standards can and should be defined and monitored
  • The security of institutional data is essential, as is appropriate and timely access

There is an increased need for more sophisticated analysis that requires accurate, reliable data in flexible and sufficient ways to meet different types of requests in a timely manner. Currently there are not clear policies or guidelines on who should be able to access what data and how they can do it. There also is a need for shared definitions for our data and shared sources so there is internal and external consistency in how Brown data is presented.  It is the intention that this Committee will address some of these concerns.  The work of the Committee could also inform a digital strategy for Brown that would eventually bring data sources together and eliminate the data silos that currently exist.

Over the course of the academic year a Data Governance website was developed; the committee approved a policy template and developed a process for policy approval. This process includes review and approval by the Data Governance Committee, subsequent approval by the Provost and the Office of General Counsel and distribution to the Data Governance Advisory Group.

During their year, the committee reviewed and approved several policies that can be found through the data governance website for those individuals with Brown credentials.  The approved policies and procedures include a card swipe data usage policy, a faculty activity report data usage policy, and an emergency access policy. These policies also address questions concerning appropriate access, data security and protection of unit/individual level information for the data in question.

The Data Governance Committee also discussed a process for data access requests that are more straightforward.  It would be cumbersome for all such requests to have to come before the Committee.  A directory of data stewards will be placed on the Data Governance website.  The first step for a request for data access should go first to the data steward for that particular data.  If the data steward cannot make the decision for that particular request it can then be sent to the Data Governance Committee.  Complex data access requests with multiple data sources and guiding policies would go through the Data Governance Committee.

Robust and shared definitions are an essential component of the Data Governance effort. Accurate and reliable reporting requires clearly defined terms that are shared and universally used.  To help meet this goal a group was formed to implement a tool called Data cookbook. This group began work in multiple areas across campus, including the office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Registrar’s Office, to develop definitions.

The Data Governance Advisory Council met twice during the 2016-17 Academic year.  As with the Data Governance Committee, the initial meeting served as an orientation to data governance and the role of the two committees.  These meetings serve to inform key data trustees on the activity of the Data Governance Committee.