Lost Knowledge: Open Science is One Solution to Hidden Data

8 March, 2019

Lost Knowledge: Open Science is One Solution to Hidden Data

The progress of science depends on how we preserve and share what we know.

By Kay Dickersin, professor emerita in Epidemiology

Extracts below (Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine). Full text here: https://magazine.jhsph.edu/2019/lost-knowledge-open-science-one-solution...

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Some of the most valuable studies on clinical trials disappeared in the 1990s. Clinical trial findings and studies that transformed systematic review research, for example, effectively vanished. In 1992, when I became an associate editor of the Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials — one of the first electronic peer-reviewed biomedical journals — I joined an effort to speed the sharing of knowledge among scientists and researchers. Just two years later, however, the journal was sold. It published a few more articles, and then it went dark. Although the journal’s article titles and abstracts were accessible through Medline, the full articles — many of which were groundbreaking — were lost to potential readers...

We lose knowledge when researchers design studies without first knowing about previous research into the question. We lose knowledge when studies or parts of studies (including negative or null results) are not reported. Knowledge may be lost if we report research findings in a way that makes them hard to find, such as in languages other than English (which may be the only language the searcher reads well) or in journals not indexed by Medline. And even when we publish in Medline-indexed journals, knowledge can be lost if the full publications are not generally available...

There are a few things we can do to ensure that we continue science’s forward progress. First, we need to refocus the academic reward system. One should be rewarded for research that is reproducible and reported completely and well...

Second, we need open science. If investigators publicly register all trials they initiate, the trial’s design is registered and is “open” information...

Third, we need a way to help scientists organize and preserve, not just index, knowledge...

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Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org