Tech Updates

New US rules on sharing healthcare research data are a giant leap for open science

Starting on Jan. 25, 2023, many of the 2,500 institutions and 300,000 researchers that the U.S. National Institutes of Health supports will need to provide a formal, detailed plan for publicly sharing the data generated by their research. For many in the scientific community, this new NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy sounds like a no-brainer.

The incredibly quick development of rapid tests and vaccines for COVID-19 demonstrate the success that can follow the open sharing of data within the research community. The importance and impact of that data even drove a White House Executive Order mandating that “the heads of all executive departments and agencies” share “COVID-19-related data” publicly last year.

I am the Director of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Open Programs Office. At [email protected], my colleagues and I work with faculty and researchers to help them openly share their research and data in a manner that provides others the rights to access, reuse and redistribute that work with as few barriers or restrictions a possible. In the sciences, these practices are often referred to as open data and open science.

The journal Nature has called the impact of the NIH’s new data management policy “seismic,” saying that it could potentially create a “global standard” for data sharing. This type of data sharing is likely to produce many benefits to science, but there also are some concerns over how researchers will meet the new requirements.