Data management and sharing policy: the first step towards promoting data sharing.
Waithira N., Mutinda B., Cheah PY.
BACKGROUND: Health-related research funders, regulators and journals expect that de-identified individual-level health data be shared widely, with as few restrictions as possible; yet, in reality, the volume of shared data remains low. MAIN BODY: Health researchers and other data producers are reluctant to share their data unless they are confident that their datasets are of high quality and reliable, and that they are used in accordance with the values and aims of their institutions. We argue that having an institutional, departmental or group data management and sharing policy is the first step towards encouraging researchers and healthcare professionals to share their data more widely. Our paper outlines the elements of a data management and sharing policy, which should include aims consistent with those of the institution as well as with data management procedures, models of data sharing, request procedures, consent models and cost recovery mechanisms. A policy would help an institution, department or group maximise the use of its data and protect the interests of the institution and its members. We base our recommendations on our experience collecting and curating data for large clinical trials conducted in low- and middle-income countries, facilitating the sharing of datasets with secondary users, whilst teaching data management and conducting empirical research on data sharing. Although the fundamentals of a policy are general, the paper is focused on the low- and middle-income country context. CONCLUSION: We argue that having an institutional, departmental or group data management and sharing policy is the first step in promoting data sharing.