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Data Collaboration for the Blue Economy: The GovLab, Intertidal Agency, and Openscapes Host Studio on Data Stewardship and Governance Models for Data Sharing

The GovLab, Intertidal Agency, and Openscapes organized a set of studios to empower early career ocean professionals to open their datasets and embody data stewardship principles.

Posted on 4th of October 2022 by Andrew Zahuranec, Kate Wing

The Blue Economy is an expansive concept. In the words of the World Bank, it is “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” Yet, meaningfully using these resources can require information and insights that organizations often do not have available. Finding new ways to exchange and collaborate around data about our oceans is critical to a sustainable, well-functioning blue economy. Over the last year, The GovLab joined a team of legal, policy, and science experts working to improve ocean data sharing as part of the NSF’s Convergence Accelerator for a Networked Blue Economy.

On 13 and 15 September 2022, The GovLab, Intertidal Agency, and Openscapes hosted hour-and-a-half-long studios targeting these exact issues. We recruited participants who were Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs), a group we identified through our research as potentially catalytic in advancing data stewardship. Encouraging ECOP leadership is a goal of the current UN Decade for Ocean Science and Sustainability, and our participants came from non-profit organizations, universities, and government agencies. The studio content was designed based on our interviews, where we heard a strong interest in understanding tools that could increase data collaborations as well as a desire to learn in community with others. Openscapes structured and facilitated the studios using their cohort science learning approach, and  The GovLab’s Stefaan Verhulst taught the group what data collaboratives were and how they could be governed.

Data Collaboratives: In the first section of the studio, Stefaan introduced data collaboratives, a new form of collaboration, beyond the public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors  exchange their data to create public value. Noting they could take multiple shapes and forms depending on the need and context, Stefaan explained three types of data collaboratives that were particularly relevant to the audience of ocean data professionals: Trusted Intermediaries; Data Pools; and Research and Analysis Partnerships. These explanations were accompanied by real-world examples demonstrating what they looked like in the field.

Governance of Data Collaboratives: After some discussion and journaling, Stefaan described how these models could be governed by focusing on the “Four Ps”: 

  • Purpose: What is the purpose/mission of the data collaborative beyond providing access to data? Purpose can be organizational, relating to the functions of a larger institution, or an issue of data access, relating to the reasons for data access.
  • Principles: What norms and attitudes will inform decisions and data handling? Like Purpose, principles can be organizational, relating to how an institution governs itself and its projects, or a matter of data access, relating to how an institution governs its data.
  • Processes: What kinds of design-making processes are needed to ensure an organization can act on its principles to meet the purpose?  
  • Practices: What is needed to operationalize the principles?

He then provided several examples from The GovLab’s work of how each of these “Ps” could be realized in a data collaborative. This lesson was followed by a group discussion of how practitioners could use this model to advance their work.


The GovLab’s collaboration with the Intertidal Agency and Openscapes is just one example of the work it is doing to advance data stewardship across domains and sectors. We invite you to view the slide deck, provided above, to better understand the opportunity presented by this model. 


Please reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions or are interested in having a similar studio with your organization.



Cover Image by Christoffer Engström/Unsplash is licensed under CC0.

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