Institutions must state policy on data sharing

University of Oxford, UK

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The benefits of sharing individual health-research data have been promoted by funders and journals, but the volume of shared data remains low (R. F. Terry et al. F1000Research 7, 1641; 2018). As well as improving external incentives to share data, institutions and departments need to set up data-sharing policies that specify aims and data-request procedures.

These aims should be consistent with those of the institutions themselves. If an institution intends to strengthen research capacity, for example, the policy should do likewise. This alignment would help researchers to maximize usage of their data for primary and secondary analyses.

Such policies would provide a framework for data-sharing decisions — for instance, on which secondary use to support. They could also help in evaluating the impact of data sharing — for example, in determining how the data are being used to improve malaria treatment in national malaria-control programmes, or ascertaining how many postgraduate students are using the institution’s data in their research.

Furthermore, having a data-sharing policy would strengthen an institution’s position when applying for funding and submitting research papers for publication (see D. B. Taichman et al. Lancet 389, e12–e14; 2017), and so enhance its academic reputation.

Nature 565, 294 (2019)

Competing Financial Interests

PYC is the coordinator of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit Data Access Committee.

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