WHO suggests sharing science, stopping secrets for public health

The World Health Organization said science and public health can benefit tremendously from sharing more data collected under the auspices of WHO technical programs, for research purposes, or in the context of public health emergencies.

Globally, there have been 54,709 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 102 countries and there have been 608,328,548 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,501,469 reported deaths, and a total of 12,613,484,608 vaccine doses administered. Better scientific collaboration and information sharing might have kept those figures lower.

Sharing data allows the fullest possible understanding of health challenges, to develop new solutions, and to make decisions using the best available evidence.

The Research for Health department has helped spearhead the launch of a new policy from the Science Division which covers all research undertaken by or with support from WHO.

The goal is to make sure that all research data is shared equitably, ethically and efficiently.

Through this policy, WHO indicates its commitment to transparency in order to reach the goal of one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

The WHO policy is accompanied by practical guidance to enable researchers to develop and implement a data management and sharing plan, before the research has even started.

The guide provides advice on the technical, ethical and legal considerations to ensure that data, even patient data, can be shared for secondary analysis without compromising personal privacy.  

Data sharing is now a requirement for research funding awarded by WHO and TDR. 

“We have seen the problems caused by the lack of data sharing on COVID-19,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist. “When data related to research activities are shared ethically, equitably and efficiently, there are major gains for science and public health.”

“We have seen the problems caused by the lack of data-sharing on COVID-19,” said Swaminathan. “Many thousands of COVID-19 clinical trials have taken place, but most have been too small or inadequately designed to provide useful evidence for policy-makers.”

“A more mature ecosystem for curating and aggregating data sets would have been extremely helpful in collating the evidence base for decision-making,” said Swaminathan.

The policy to share data from all research funded or conducted by WHO, and practical guidance to do so, can be found here.

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