Better Science through Better Data
Data, to some, can be overwhelming to comprehend. With the prospect of data sharing and ensuring teams have the right people and support, data can lead to great changes and improvements in a number of different fields, across a wide scale of investigational areas.
My name is Sabrina and I am a Research Scientist at Future Genetics. On the 14th of November, Springer Nature held the ‘Better Science through Better Data’ event in London at the Natural History Museum. The event consisted of a series of thought-provoking lightning talks as well as an international line-up of keynote speakers. The main theme of the event was the role and impact data has and can have on the future of science and research.
The advantages data sharing could have in the world of science are endless. Not only will that particular professional gain scientific credit amongst a huge audience, but they are also giving something back to the science community, as it could mean new approaches to problems, improvements upon identification of diseases (which in turn could improve the effectiveness of treatments).
It could also allow reporting and acknowledgement of novel bio markers and in some cases, adapting the data to accommodate an entirely different investigational study. Data can also be used to build on ideas and methods, as well as open doors to new collaborations and analysis.
The question arises of how data sharing can affect the patients or subjects from whom data is acquired from. There is uncertainty around the privacy of patient information and the risk of data being traceable and identifiable. As a Scientist, patient confidentiality and privacy should be a primary concern, as part of Good Clinical and Good Ethical Practice.
Compromising patient privacy and trust is non-negotiable, regardless of the potential benefits data sharing may have. This is just one of the many considerations that must be taken into account before exposing data.
The Right People with the Right Skills
Presently, the requirements for sufficient data management are often unmet and various surveys have shown this is because of a lack of knowledge or support, rather than a lack of technology. Therefore, to tackle this problem, some teams have appointed a data steward at every facility of theirs, who can offer this support and assist the team in various ways, including; training, advice, tools and archiving. The Data Steward is more equipped at handling and managing data, whilst being realistic about making incremental changes which in turn will ensure requirements are met.
The use of data is so widespread, ranging from education, to research, to guidance. So although it may seem bothersome, it is clear that Better Data could in fact lead to Better Science.