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“By refusing to share data, researchers are slowing progress towards reducing illness and death.” Pisani & AbouZahr are making a big claim in this round table.1 Is this claim sensationalist or does it have some basis? Can we argue that data from public health research really affect the ways prevention and control programmes are designed? Lives have become longer and healthier in the past 50 years, despite an arguably poor evidence base for health and an even poorer appreciation by policy-makers of the value of reliable health information.2,3 Pisani & AbouZahr are arguing that such gains would have been bigger, faster and more equitable had the world had better information about what works and does not work in public health; lost ground is partly due to widespread hoarding of research findings, particularly primary data.

They have a point. Restricting access to data to only those scientists directly engaged in a research project limits the scope of legitimate scientific enquiry and the potential for research to influence policy and practice. No individual scientist who collects or collates data has all the possible analytic methods, expertise and time to extract key public health messages from research or routine data sets.47 Lost opportunity for analysis is the main consequence of poor data sharing practices.

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Data Sharing  


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