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World Bank joins initiative to open up health research data

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The World Bank has joined public and charitable funders in a new initiative to allow researchers and members of the scientific community to easily access public health data.

Much of the data collection that could improve public health research is expensive and time-consuming. Funders of this research believe that making research data sets available to investigators beyond the original research team in a timely and responsible manner, subject to appropriate safeguards, will generate three key benefits:

  • faster progress in improving health
  • better value for money
  • higher quality science

In May 2010, the Wellcome Trust, global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health, held a joint workshop with the Hewlett Foundation in Washington DC, at which representatives of major funders of public health research, international organizations, large research studies and journals discussed how to increase sharing of public health research data. The workshop built on discussions at the global ministerial forum on research for health at Bamako (Mali) in November 2008, and wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders.

As a result of this workshop, a group of major international funders of public health research, including major public funding agencies, charitable foundations and international organizations, have committed to work together to increase the availability of data emerging from our funded research, in order to accelerate advances in public health.

Goals of this new initiative include:

  • Data management standards support data sharing: Standards of data management are developed, promoted and entrenched so that research data can be shared routinely, and re-used effectively.
  • Data sharing is recognized as a professional achievement: Funders and employers of researchers recognize data management and sharing of well-managed datasets as an important professional indicator of success in research.
  • Secondary data users respect the rights of producers and add value to the data they use: Researchers creating data sets for secondary analysis from shared primary data are expected to share those data sets and act with integrity and in line with good practice - giving due acknowledgement to the generators of the original data.
  • Well documented data sets are available for secondary analysis: Data collected for health research are made available to the scientific community for analysis which adds value to existing knowledge and which leads to improvements in health.
  • Capacity to manage and analyse data is strengthened: The research community, particularly those collecting data in developing countries, develop the capacity to manage and analyse those data locally, as well as contributing to international analysis efforts.
  • Published work and data are linked and archived: To the extent possible, datasets underpinning research papers in peer-reviewed journals are archived and made available to other researchers in a clear and transparent manner.
  • Data sharing is sustainably resourced for the long term: The human and technical resources and infrastructures needed to support data management, archiving and access are developed and supported for long-term sustainability.

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