Think Tank Calls for ‘National Secure Data Service’ to Improve Fed Data Management

The Data Foundation, a non-profit think tank, is advocating for a National Secure Data Service to “revolutionize” Federal data analysis capabilities and modernize data infrastructure, per a July report.

Following congressional action like the Evidence Act, the Data Foundation asserted that the next phase of Federal data management is to “create the bridge across the government’s decentralized data capabilities with a new entity that jointly maximizes data access responsibilities with confidentiality protections – a National Secure Data Service.”

Through the National Secure Data Service envisioned by the foundation, researchers would have more efficient access to relevant data, the American public would gain a better understanding of how data are being used, and policymakers would be able to access summary insights for decision-making.

The National Secure Data Service would be built on eight guiding principles: transparency and trust; legal authority to protect privacy and confidentiality; independence; legal authority to acquire data from agencies; scalable functionality; sustainability; oversight and accountability; and intergovernmental support.

The Data Foundation recommends housing the National Secure Data Service within the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF would create a new Federally-Funded Research and Development Center to host the service. The foundation wrote that this would provide the necessary combination of oversight and technical skills to manage the service, including striking the balance between protecting data privacy while allowing researcher access.

“NSF’s deep ties to researchers in the natural and social sciences, as well as its support of advances in computer and data science and security, lead us to conclude that NSF would most successfully launch and sustain a researcher-centric data service,” the paper states.

Alongside NSF’s leadership, the Data Foundation is also calling for congressional authorization of the National Secure Data Service to specify oversight, transparency, and accountability preferences for the service.

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