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Policy projects

Data management and use: Governance in the 21st century - a British Academy and Royal Society project

The Royal Society and the British Academy have conducted a review on the needs of a 21st century data governance system.

The amount of data generated from the world around us has reached levels that were previously unimaginable. Meanwhile, uses of data-enabled technologies promise benefits, from improving healthcare and treatment discovery, to better managing critical infrastructure such as transport and energy. 

These new applications can make a great contribution to human flourishing but to realise these benefits, societies must navigate significant choices and dilemmas: they must consider who reaps the most benefit from capturing, analysing and acting on different types of data, and who bears the most risk.

In this fast-moving landscape, governance challenges need to be addressed in a timely manner if the overall system of governance for data management and data use is to maintain public trust.

Two responses are required:

  • Firstly, a set of high-level principles to help visibly shape all forms of data governance and ensure trustworthiness and trust in the management and use of data as a whole.  
  • Second, it is necessary to create a body to steward the evolution of the governance landscape as a whole. Such stewardship body be expected to conduct expert investigation into novel questions and issues, and to enable new ways to anticipate the future consequences of today’s decisions. 

Over the past year the British Academy and the Royal Society have brought together leading academics, industry leaders, civil society and data and technology specialists to better understand the needs of a 21st century data governance system: