Sharing research data needs to be appealing

New guidelines for sharing of research data will entail consequences for all those wishing to publish articles in the world’s most prestigious journals. Mette Kalager and her colleagues argue in favour of a system of credits for data sharing that can safeguard the interests of researchers.


Mette Kalager, Photo: Silje Røysen Salvador/UiO.

Today, Mette Kalager, Hans-Olov Adami and Michael Bretthauer in the Clinical Effectiveness Research group published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Their letter is a response to an editorial written by the editors of the world’s leading medical journals, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

In their editorial, the editors recently proclaimed that they plan to introduce requirements for all researchers who publish clinical studies in their journals to share the data on which the research is based. The authors of the letter welcome this new arrangement, but believe that the interests of the researchers also need to be safeguarded by the new guidelines.

Large-scale clinical studies at risk

Sharing of research data will account for simpler verification of research results and facilitate use of the data in new ways, with a view to making progress in research and patient treatment. However, Kalager is apprehensive that undertaking large-scale clinical studies will be less attractive unless the voice of the researchers can also be heard.

‘Research data from large-scale clinical studies are the result of years of hard work, high competence and major financial resources. Just retrieving data from such studies, collating them in new ways and publishing articles is much simpler than undertaking a study yourself,’ Kalager explains.

‘I’m afraid that clinical studies will lose out in this context, and that nobody will want to undertake such studies anymore. It is therefore crucial to establish a system of credits for data sharing, similar to the one that already exists for publications,’ she adds.

New solution for credits

The authors of the letter propose the introduction of a new category in the academic system of credits.

‘Researchers who have generated clinical research data should be credited in the form of a “data providership” that bestows credits equivalent to those of authorship when the data are used in new ways. In addition, it is crucial that those of us who undertake clinical studies have the opportunity to delay the sharing of data until we have completed the planned analyses of the material,’ Kalager notes.

In the near future, sharing of clinical research data will be part of the researchers’ everyday practice, and the international guidelines are in the process of being drawn up.

‘The ICMJE journals will set the direction for how this sharing of research data will be implemented and rewarded, and the solution chosen will be critical for us who undertake clinical studies. We all wish to contribute positively to the health and treatment of patients, and long-term clinical studies are a necessary element in this work. We need to ensure that undertaking such studies remains attractive, and being credited for sharing data could help in this respect,’ Kalager concludes.

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Tags: research, data sharing, clinical studies By Anita Aalby
Published May 9, 2016 10:16 AM