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Open data, trials and new ethics of using others' work


Data and ideas are the capital of research productivity. Is it ethical to preempt the publication of another researcher’s unpublished data or preliminary analysis, perhaps without citation? The long-established answer is ‘certainly not’—but recent ‘open data’ use suggests otherwise. A research competition was held using data from The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT). This SPRINT Data Analysis Challenge created a novel environment for using open data as data became open early. This allowed third-party researchers the opportunity to assess some of the trial’s outcomes before trialists. Could this infringe on trialists’ right to analyse their data? Simultaneously, trialists had access to analyses from submissions to the competition that were not formally ‘published’ with a typical author credit or citation. Therefore, trialists had the opportunity to view the competition submissions and published on those ideas first without a typical way to cite the source of that idea. Could this infringe on researchers’ right to be credited for their ideas? This is not intended as a criticism of open data, the SPRINT Data Analysis Challenge, or similar systems/ventures, but is an effort to objectively note what may be remediable flaws in the worthwhile, growing and dynamic uses of open data. We offer preliminary analytics to shed more light and provide fodder for additional discussion.

  • applied and professional ethics
  • education for health care professionals

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