Open Access for Clinical Data

I am so excited by the open access movement and all the traction it is getting. The benefits of sharing research, and data, are immense. National Public Radio (NPR) in the US have recently had a segment (listen here), and written an article, about the proposal by leading medical journals to require researchers to publicly share their data.

The concept is relatively simple. If you want to be published, you must share the data collected in your clinical studies, which until now has been rarely done.

The article discusses the reasons researchers may not want to share, an interesting discussion detailing issues that I had not been aware of. However, from my reading, it seems these issues for the individual researcher are far outweighed by the benefits to the greater population.

For example, some “researchers have felt that they deserved the right to future papers for all their hard work gathering the original data. And maybe they didn’t want others examining their work.” Fair enough I suppose. But then, this “neglects the key role that independent scientists can play in bringing new insights and also in validating the quality of the data that were collected. Access is also central to the scientific method and the idea of replication to establish the truth.”

By not sharing, and protecting one’s own interests, scientific progress is impeded. Not only does sharing allow for greater possibilities of additional knowledge being gained, it also ensures an extra check and balance on those who may try to draw dubious conclusions.

I believe this incentive to share, provided by the medical journals, is an important move. I hope it is adopted by the medical community and extends to many other research fields. If you’d like to comment on this proposal, you can submit your feedback on the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors website.



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