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SPARC Roadmap for Action

The need for academic institutions to act to retain control of infrastructure, data, and data analytics is here to stay. The time to act is now.

Table of Contents

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Aspesi, C., Allen, N. S., Crow, R., Daugherty, S., Joseph, H., McArthur, J. T., & Shockey, N. (2019, November 1). SPARC Roadmap for Action. ,


Aspesi, Claudio, et al. “SPARC Roadmap for Action.” , 1 Nov. 2019, .


Aspesi, Claudio, Nicole S. Allen, Raym Crow, Shawn Daugherty, Heather Joseph, Joseph T. W. McArthur, and Nick Shockey. 2019. “SPARC Roadmap for Action.” , November 1.

  • Background

    The purpose of this document is to build on the Landscape Analysis by offering a roadmap of potential actions that stakeholders can use to chart both individual and collective responses.

  • What Do We Mean By Data And Data Infrastructure

    We talk about two types of data. The first is Research Data, which refers to the data academic institutions generate through their research activities. The second is Grey Data, which refers to the vast amount of data produced by universities outside of core research activities.

  • Three Categories Of Action

    The purpose of this document is to build on the Landscape Analysis by offering a roadmap of potential actions that stakeholders can use to chart both individual and collective responses.

  • Risk Mitigation: Intro

    These actions are designed to be concrete, practical steps that any institution can begin taking immediately.

  • Conduct A Data Inventory

    A common-sense response to the increasing volumes of data collected across campuses and the rising deployment of data analytics tools.

  • Establish Campus Coordination Mechanisms

    Coordination mechanisms to adjudicate conflicts among departments and offices will become key as increasing volumes of data are collected across campuses and data analytics tools are deployed.

  • Revise Data Policies

    It is critical for data policies to be revised to address the myriad strategic questions raised by the proliferation of data and data analytics.

  • Revise Privacy Policies

    The development of strong privacy policies is critical, and must extend beyond legal compliance.

  • Engage in Open Procurement Practices

    An important area when institutions can assert control of data is through purchasing and procurement processes. These processes should be revisited and revised to ensure that they are transparent, competitive, and fully coordinated across the institution.

  • Strategic Choices: Intro

    The second category of actions is more complex, since it relates to decisions that will need to be made specifically based on each individual institution’s mission, culture and values. It also involves the establishment of an explicit process to determine the position that each institution wants to take in regards to specific issues posed by the collection of data and the deployment of data analytics tools.

  • Algorithms vs. Humans

    It is only a matter of time before artificial intelligence further pervades campus decision-making in ways that impact equity, privacy, and allocation of resources.

  • Quantitative vs. Qualitative Metrics

    While institutions may not be ready to abandon the usage of quantitative metrics to evaluate their faculty, they should consider engaging in a genuine debate on the relative weight that they place on quantitative vs. qualitative assessment.

  • IP Exploitation vs. Knowledge Sharing

    The emergence of "big data" and text and data mining has opened up new possibilities for research universities to exploit their IP in profitable ways.

  • Community Actions: Intro

    A third category of actions for the community to consider focus on leveraging a strength in numbers approach, and targeting “big picture” actions institutions to regain and maintain control of their data infrastructure. This category includes a broad range of possible structural solutions to foster an open, competitive landscape for data and data analytics that is aligned with the interests of academic institutions and the communities they serve.

  • Collectively Implement Strategic Practices

    Broad adoption of common terms and conditions will have a market effect that favors products and services that are in the best interests of the academic community. This includes advantaging Open Source software over “black-box” algorithms and leveling the playing field for community-owned tools to compete with commercial options whenever available.

  • Establish Inclusive Governance Structures

    It is vital for the governing bodies of infrastructure services to include representation from the communities they serve in order to ensure that management stays accountable to the community’s evolving needs.

  • Realign Stakeholder Relationships

    These community-based actions portend several possible realignments within the academic community and its stakeholder groups that should also be considered as efforts move forward.

  • Acknowledgements

    We would like to acknowledge that the development of this publication was generously supported by grants from the Open Society Foundations and Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.