The establishment of a coordination mechanism to adjudicate conflicts among departments and offices on data and data analytics contracts is an important element. Coordination is a relatively easy task to articulate, but a complex one to execute given the decentralized culture of many academic institutions. In a more centralized corporate environment, the solution is increasingly to designate a Chief Data Officer (CDO),1 which is typically defined as a senior leadership role reporting directly to either the CEO or COO of a corporation. This model is also being adopted by the U.S. Federal Government: the Open Government Data Act passed in 2018 explicitly requires that each federal agency designates a CDO, and that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) establishes a Chief Data Officer Council (which includes the CDOs of each individual agency as well as some appointees of the Director of the OMB).2
As a preliminary step, institutions may consider establishing a temporary coordination task force or committee as a stepping stone to habituate the institution to the need for coordination on data issues. This coordinating body might include the people responsible for data decisions within each office or department that generates, acquires, externally releases, or stores significant quantities of data, as well as the CIO or CTO of the institution, the Chief Legal Counsel, the individual in charge of strategic planning, and representatives of the library. Once an institution takes the next step of appointing a CDO, this task force could continue acting as a support or stakeholder liaison group. The regular involvement of Presidents or Provosts is also important, although they do not necessarily need to be members of the task force.
An example of where a coordinating body would be important is where different interests come into conflict. An office tasked with establishing corporate partnerships may wish to share information and data on early stage research activities of some departments with parties outside of the institution in order to facilitate corporate partnerships. At the same time, the licensing office may wish to keep the same data exclusive to the institution until patents are granted. Both goals are legitimate, but the adjudication mechanism should be a deliberate institutional decision, rather than unilateral departmental choices.