Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Towards a data sharing culture in science

Conclusion from a recent article by Heather A. Piwowar, Michael J. Becich, Howard Bilofsky, Rebecca S. Crowley

"We recognize that there are real and perceived impediments to sharing biomedical research data. Some individual donors may have personal interests in privacy and confidentiality that exceed their desire to contribute to new methods of detecting and treating disease. Investigators may restrict access to data to maximize their professional and economic benefit. Academic health centers may view data sharing as a threat to intellectual property, possibly impeding entrepreneurial spin-offs and technology transfers that bring revenue and act as incubators for future research. AHCs may also worry that the data could be used to critique their health care practices rather than advance the research frontier. Industrial sponsorship can hinder plans for sharing data, and the regulatory environment may necessitate stringent oversight to ensure compliance and minimize risk.

These issues can and must be addressed as we work to embrace a data sharing culture. The hurdles may not be as high as we think: 99% of senior technology transfer officers at highly funded NIH universities agree that academic scientists should freely share data with other academic scientists after publication [41]. The systems and architectures in Table 1 provide a future vision of research in which data are more universally available and interoperable. Recent initiatives for making research publications freely available [42–45] demonstrate a political and academic commitment “to help advance science and improve human health” [46] by widely sharing research results." via SC Blog


Jean-Claude Bradley said...

If the tech transfer officers really feel that way about data sharing they should be encouraged to join the blogosphere/FriendFeedosphere and make their viewpoints known.

Daniel said...

While the trend towards data sharing is certainly gaining momentum, technology transfer officers may not be a valid sample population. Individual investigators and department chairs are often considerably more reluctant to share data for the reasons summarized in the article cited, and there is more inertia among academics than might be expected.

Table I is revealing in that almost all referenced data sets are cancer-related. Given the inherent complexity of clinical cancer data, the statistical need for large aggregated sets of data collected using universal data standards, and NCI's own sometimes contradictory efforts to come to grips with data sharing issues, it is likely that the most important breakthroughs in data sharing will occur in cancer-related biomedical studies first.