Intended for healthcare professionals


Data sharing in medical research

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 14 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k510
  1. Milton Packer, distinguished scholar in cardiovascular science
  1. Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute, Baylor University, Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA
  1. milton.packer{at}

Trust is the elephant in the room

The imperative for data sharing is now widely understood by the research community. After years of debate, there is a growing consensus that data sharing is an inseparable part of the research process.12 My publicly stated position is that an investigator who performs studies in people has implicitly agreed to a social contract, which includes the responsibility to make the raw data available for examination.3 It has always been delusional for researchers to imagine that the public would believe their findings and accept their conclusions without access to supporting data. If clinicians are expected to change their practice based on their reading of medical journals, they need to know that the evidence in published papers can be verified.

Given the logic for data sharing, why have some researchers resisted? Cynics have hypothesised that the research community must have something to hide; that if examined, unpublished raw data would not corroborate published findings. Such broad based suspiciousness has been counterproductive. Many …

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