Concerns and ideas about data sharing

Mette Kalager publishes an article on concerns about data sharing in The New England Journal of Medicine. In the article, Kalager proposes solutions on how to make data sharing a success. 


Head of the Clinical Effectiveness Group Mette Kalager published a letter to the editor on data sharing in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recently announced data-sharing requirements for member journals. Among the issues that were raised, is giving adequate academic credit to the people who design clinical trials, enroll and treat patients, and curate the resulting data. Head of the Clinical Effectiveness Group at the University of Oslo, Mette Kalager (with co-authors Adami and Bretthauer), has published a reply to the new requirements. She has some concerns:


– Data-sharing requirements may discourage researchers from initiating and participating in clinical trials. Our personal experience has been that such trials require a long-term commitment of both time and resources, says Kalager.

Letter to the editor published by the Clinical Effectiveness Group.

Possible solutions

Kalager proposes a new model for giving academic credits, in order to motivate researchers to take on large clinical trials:

– Given researchers’ concerns about their own competitiveness and academic advancement, one answer to the ICMJE call for giving academic credit to data generators is to introduce a new class of contributor on the title page of published articles that derive from the secondary analysis of extant data: “data generator.” For this approach to succeed, scientific databases such as PubMed and Medline would therefore need to create new categories of authorship for such articles: “data generators” and “analytic authors", says Kalager.

Kalager proposes that data sharing, as shown by “data generator” authorship, should count for promotions, grant applications, and ranking of researchers (e.g., the h-index). 

Protect planned projects 

Kalager also underlines the importance of protecting future projects in clinical trials. 

– We propose that original investigators be required to specify and continuously update future projects in the trial record in the clinical trial registry. Investigators should be able to reject requests for data sharing that compete with planned or ongoing projects. 

Despite these concerns, Kalager is welcoming the new requirements on data sharing:

– We welcome the ICMJE data-sharing initiative. It will allow cost-effective use of resources and benefit patients by fostering new ideas. However, to make data sharing a success, we now need to redefine how academic credit is parceled out; we think that “data generator” is an idea whose time has come.

By Anita Aalby
Published May 25, 2016 12:10 PM - Last modified Sep. 6, 2017 12:30 PM