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Policy Models (formerly: DataTags) is a tool for creating formal models of policies, such as proper handling for a given dataset or benefit entitlements for unemployed people. Originally intended as a way of helping researchers understand the laws and contractual agreements that govern how they can share sensitive data, it may also be used to model certain types of public policies.

Sample Problem - Sharing Sensitive Research Data

Making data widely available to researchers is good policy. It enables replication and validation of scientific findings and maximizes return on research investment. For these reasons, sponsors and publishers expect or mandate the sharing of data where possible.

However, data containing sensitive information about individuals cannot be shared openly without appropriate safeguards. An extensive body of statutes, regulations, institutional policies, consent forms, data sharing agreements, and common practices govern how sensitive data should be used and disclosed in different contexts.

Researchers and institutions that manage and share data must interpret how the various legal requirements and other data privacy and security standards constrain their handling of a given dataset. DataTags helps researchers navigate these complex issues.

How PolicyModels Works - Find the Proper DataTag for a Dataset

Using the following three-step process, PolicyModels automates the assessment of the data handling rules that apply to an individual dataset. The output is a set of tags that describe how the dataset can be stored, transmitted, or used over time.

  1. Questionnaire The user answers a series of questions designed to elicit the key properties of a given dataset
  2. Assessment Based on the user’s responses, DataTags applies inference rules to determine which handling requirements are relevant to the dataset
  3. Tag Assignment DataTags generates simple, iconic tags that indicate how the dataset can be stored, transmitted, or used based on its properties and the applicable restrictions.

PolicyModels is being designed to integrate with the open source data repository software Dataverse and its suite of access controls and statistical analysis tools. It will also operate as a standalone tool and as an application that can be integrated with other platforms.

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