Data Linking Toolkit: Partnerships

A data partnership is a formal arrangement between two or more parties to collaborate to advance one or both partners’ data interests. This collaboration often involves matching and linking record-level data. The importance of formalizing a partnership between agencies or programs when linking record-level data cannot be understated. To be successful, data linking requires trust among all partnering agency or program staff, a mutually agreed-on scope of work, sustainable technical solutions, confidence that the linked data will be used only as agreed, and a commitment to jointly governing the data. A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities promotes trust and enhances professional relationships. (For more detail on the content of the documents that support data linking partnerships, see Step 3: Formalize Data Linking Partnership.)

What about data linking work by researchers?

Sometimes researchers request data from multiple agencies or programs to investigate a hypothesis that requires linked record-level data. Additionally, state agencies may contract with institutions of higher education to link and analyze their data. Part C and Part B 619 program staff must establish legal agreements outlining the parameters for linking, analyzing, and using data.

Often, data linking is a joint activity between two agencies or programs, in which each partner has a relatively equal investment and agrees in principle to contribute to the effort. Both partners are involved in most, if not all, data linking activities. Other times, one agency or program may have a more vested interest in the outcome of the data linking. In this case, the program or agency often leads the effort, drafting many of the preparatory documents, guiding the technical linking work, and sustaining any future linking as applicable. However, even when one partner has the primary role, the other partner should stay informed about the linking activities and progress and be involved in critical partnership linking activities (e.g., joint data governance).