Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Data sharing and data hoarding in high-stakes medical research

RPM, Intellectual Property and Open Access to Biomedical Data, Evolgen, March 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

...It seems that the areas where collaboration and open access should be encouraged -- because of the direct implications on human health -- are those in which hoarding and isolation are most predominant (the evidence here is purely anecdotal). On the other hand, less competitive research disciplines (not all, but many -- systematicians and naturalists are notorious for hoarding field samples) are more open with their data. When the public health benefits of the research are greatest, the openness of the data appears to be the worst....

Which brings us to Indonesia. Within the past year, Indonesia has been affected by multiple outbreaks of bird flu (influenza strain H5N1). Indonesian researchers have collected data on these outbreaks, but they are not sharing the data with the international community (Revere and Glyn Moody have both commented). They are treating the samples as a national treasure, not free for the international community to plunder. A discussion of whether their motives are ethical or not leads to interesting debates, but what I find more interesting is whether they are an exception or the norm.

Is the Indonesian hoarding of bird flu sequences any different from researchers hoarding data on measles or other viral samples? Is the Indonesian government committing a much worse "crime" against open access than other scientists? Or is what they're doing nothing compared the hoarding of data that goes on in other areas of biomedical research?