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Data management and use: governance in the 21st century

Edited by Co-chairs: Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS and Professor Genevra Richardson CBE FBA

This publication outlines the findings of a review conducted by the Royal Society and the British Academy 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.


Alongside the main report, the project conducted a range of evidence reviews:

Publication part of

Data governance

Data is increasingly important to how we live. This project explores how we can best address the governance challenges for data management and data use, so that data can be harnessed for human flourishing.

Data and AI

How are big data, data-driven technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) changing the way that people live? How can we harness this change for good?