Australian Government Custodianship Guidelines
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Custodianship assigns, to an agency, certain rights and responsibilities for the acquisition of spatial information and the management of this information on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. The rights include the right to determine how the information will be managed and any access constraints, with accompanying responsibilities towards the maintenance, quality and enabling appropriate access to that information.
Australian Government custodian agencies manage spatial information as trustees in a partnership: to enable the use of that information for the benefit of the government and the nation.
The benefits of custodianship are that a custodian agency is most likely to become the preferred supplier for information under its custody. This is because it holds the most comprehensive, accurate and, ultimately, credible information.
The principle of custodianship should be applied within the Australian Government as a matter of good data-management practice. It is simply the only way of ensuring accountability for the care, maintenance and credibility of information.
Custodianship policies are being coordinated by the Australian Government – Office of Spatial Data Management (OSDM), building on earlier work by the Commonwealth Spatial Data Committee (CSDC) and policies developed by other jurisdictions. Custodianship is seen by the Spatial Data Policy Executive – portfolio representatives at Deputy Secretary / Chief Information Officer level – as being at the core of efficient and effective spatial information management.
Successful management of Australian Government spatial data depends on the identification of custodians and the effective operation of custodianship. The Australian Government’s Policy on Spatial Data Access and Pricing relies heavily on the principle of custodianship, in particular of those datasets listed on the Schedule to the Policy.
OSDM, as the coordinating body for spatial data management in the Australian Government, has a role in identifying or confirming custodians of spatial data. It also works with custodians to clarify their rights and responsibilities, both to the government and to an increasing range of other spatial-data users.
These Guidelines do not seek to abrogate the rights and responsibilities of recognised data custodians. However, both the identification of custodians and their associated rights and responsibilities have not always been clearly articulated and are not necessarily clearly understood and acted upon.
The Guidelines are designed to assist data custodians improve practice in spatial data management. The extent to which these guidelines are adopted by any given agency or custodian may depend upon their particular circumstances, including portfolio resourcing priorities.
A custodian has various rights and responsibilities with respect to a particular dataset, including:
- determining priorities for data capture
- managing and operating data acquisition and integration processes
- complying with standards
- storing the data
- maintaining and revising the data
- ensuring data security
- providing metadata
- promoting data use
- facilitating data access
- administering data distribution
- charging for data or recovering costs associated with data supply, consistent with agency and jurisdictional policies
- consulting with users
- preserving the data over time
- complying with legislation, policies and guidelines.
The day to day operation of these responsibilities may be delegated or contracted to other parties, but the ultimate responsibility rests with the nominated data custodian. The costs of custodianship are the responsibility of the custodian. In accordance with agency and jurisdictional policies, the custodian may charge for access to the data or recover costs directly associated with the supply of data.