The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently made available a list of data sharing repositories. The NIH Data Sharing Repositories is a searchable list of NIH-supported data repositories that accept submissions of appropriate data from NIH-funded investigators (and others). Also included are resources that aggregate information about biomedical data and information sharing systems.
Also available, NIH Data Sharing Policies, provide a list of data sharing policies in effect at the NIH, including policies at the NIH, IC, division, and program levels that apply to broad sets of investigators and data. Individual requests for applications (RFAs) and program announcements (PA) may specify other data sharing policies for specific projects.
The data repositories and sharing policies provided by the NIH are the work of the NIH Trans-NIH BioMedical Informatics Coordinating Committee (BMIC) which was established in the Spring of 2007 to improve communication and coordination of issues related to clinical- and bio-informatics at NIH. The Committee provides a forum for sharing information about NIH informatics programs, projects, and plans, including their relationship to activities of other federal agencies and non-government organizations.
Data sharing is becoming an important aspect of scientific research with benefits that include:
- reinforcing open scientific inquiry,
- encouraging diversity of analysis and opinion,
- promoting new research, testing of new or alternative hypotheses and methods of analysis,
- supporting studies on data collection methods and measurement,
- facilitating education of new researchers,
- enabling the exploration of topics not envisioned by the initial investigators,
- permitting the creation of new datasets by combining data from multiple sources.
Benefits are not just limited to the scientific community. With data sharing everyone benefits, including investigators, funding agencies, the scientific community, and, most importantly, the public. Data sharing provides more effective use of NIH resources by avoiding unnecessary duplication of data collection. It also conserves research funds to support more investigators. The initial investigator benefits, because as the data are used and published more broadly, the initial investigator’s reputation grows.