This May the Wellcome Trust published a report from the Expert Advisory Group on Data Access (EAGDA). ‘Establishing Incentives and Changing Cultures to Support Data Access’ is a report which aimed to understand the factors which affect the ease with which individual researchers can make their data available to other researchers. Read the full report and you will see that it echoes earlier research in the area and highlights a key issue: data sharing is not yet being given the status it deserves.
As stated under the reports ‘key findings’ “the infrastructures needed to support researchers in data management and sharing, and to ensure the long-term preservation and curation of data, are often lacking (both at an institutional and a community level)”. Data sharing continues to be a major subject of debate and through such debate and investigation the need for to improve the infrastructure of data sharing, to widen and better the data sharing that exists, is continually emphasised. The results of this report show that need for clear and updated policy is real.
Data sharing in research is not something that can be ignored. It has already taken a hold in genomics and through collaboration we can really push data sharing into the next gear. For faster, more effective medicine we need faster, more effective data sharing.
To harness the untapped potential of millions of pounds of research we need to change the culture surrounding data access. A complex issue but one which is worth time and effort. As the EAGDA report shows, more needs to be done and further to this the change will not come from a single source but rather their needs to be a cultural shift.
The future seems promising – the culture surrounding data access (or lack thereof) can change. With rewards and refinements the enthusiasm, and ability, of researchers to share data will grow. And of course, as funding is fought over and data sharing strategy adapted it is important to keep at the heart of healthcare research the patient – after all, the patients are both the donors of data for research and the ultimate beneficiaries to benefit from improved access to data.