Sharing health research data – the role of funders in improving the impact

Authors : Robert F. Terry, Katherine Littler, Piero L. Olliaro

Recent public health emergencies with outbreaks of influenza, Ebola and Zika revealed that the mechanisms for sharing research data are neither being used, or adequate for the purpose, particularly where data needs to be shared rapidly.

A review of research papers, including completed clinical trials related to priority pathogens, found only 31% (98 out of 319 published papers, excluding case studies) provided access to all the data underlying the paper – 65% of these papers give no information on how to find or access the data.

Only two clinical trials out of 58 on interventions for WHO priority pathogens provided any link in their registry entry to the background data.

Interviews with researchers revealed a reluctance to share data included a lack of confidence in the utility of the data; an absence of academic-incentives for rapid dissemination that prevents subsequent publication and a disconnect between those who are collecting the data and those who wish to use it quickly.

The role of the funders of research needs to change to address this. Funders need to engage early with the researchers and related stakeholders to understand their concerns and work harder to define the more explicitly the benefits to all stakeholders.

Secondly, there needs to be a direct benefit to sharing data that is directly relevant to those people that collect and curate the data.

Thirdly more work needs to be done to realise the intent of making data sharing resources more equitable, ethical and efficient.

Finally, a checklist of the issues that need to be addressed when designing new or revising existing data sharing resources should be created. This checklist would highlight the technical, cultural and ethical issues that need to be considered and point to examples of emerging good practice that can be used to address them.

URL : Sharing health research data – the role of funders in improving the impact