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NEJM for Data Sharing

The New England Journal of Medicine is "committed to data sharing in the setting of clinical trials," writes Jeffrey Drazen, the journal's editor-in-chief, in an editorial this week.

In an editorial last week, Drazen and Dan Longo, a deputy editor there, had discussed concerns that some clinical researchers have regarding data sharing, including that "research parasites" will use data collected by others without understanding the data parameters, use that data for their own purposes, and horn in on original investigators' planned research directions.

The phrase and idea drew scorn from a number of scientists, including the University of California, Davis' Jonathan Eisen.

The International Society of Computational Biology also says in a statement that "large parts of the statement purport an obsolete view of hegemony over data that is neither in line with today’s spirit of open access nor furthering an atmosphere where the potential of data can be fully realized."

Drazen this week sought to clarify the journal's stance. He echoes a report from an Institute of Medicine committee on which he served and the recent International Committee of Medical Journal Editors editorial by saying that "we believe there is a moral obligation to the people who volunteer to participate in these trials to ensure that their data are widely and responsibly used."

This update has, in part, mollified ISCB. But, the organization adds that it did little to address the underlying issues. It argues that data produced using public money should be made publicly available, that restrictions as to how public data may be used slows research down, and that open data helps fight fraud and push back on misinterpretations.

"Dividing scientists into data providers and data analysts is simplistic and gives a misleading impression of the actual state of biological and biomedical science," the society adds.