Sharing research data to improve public health

1

Advances in
information technology have revolutionised science by enabling researchers to
freely and openly share large datasets
with investigators beyond
the original research team
. Whilst
data sharing is now the norm in fields such as physics and genetics, a number
of obstacles including time and cost constraints, in addition to technical and ethical
issues
, have hindered the establishment of data sharing within public
health research.

This week a group
of 17 major international funders of public health research, including the
Wellcome Trust,
National Institutes of
Health (USA)
and the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, released a joint
statement
 pledging to work together to
increase the availability of data
collected from populations
for the purpose of health research
, to advance developments in public health. Sharing
clinical research data
has a unique challenge – as individual privacy must
be protected – and this commitment should provide further support for
researchers wanting to show leadership
by sharing their health data.

The pledge
represents a hugely important step toward improving access to data and “has the
potential to improve the lives of many millions of people worldwide”, according
to
Wellcome
Trust director
Sir Mark
Walport.

With an increasing number of institutions and organizations
adopting policies on data sharing, there has arisen a requirement for open online archives, to allow
institutions to preserve and showcase their intellectual output to a larger and
unrestricted audience.

Science depends on
reproducibility and building on previous findings, and
BioMed
Central
is looking forward to working with
authors to maximise the value of their raw data as part of this exciting
initiative.

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