NIH is Soliciting Comments on the Draft NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy

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BRAIN Initiative investigators can now offer feedback on a new NIH-wide data sharing policy that will likely impact ongoing and future neuroscience research. The draft NIH policy for data management and sharing is open for public comment until January 10, 2020.

Advancements in high-speed computing and massive data storage capabilities have enabled the collection of larger datasets than ever before. Interdisciplinary collaborative projects funded by the BRAIN Initiative are generating complex and multidimensional data; making the preservation, analysis, and sharing of datasets a pervasive issue. Many of those in the biomedical research community agree that data archiving and sharing augments research reproducibility and could enhance scientific discovery.

Earlier this year, the NIH Institutes and Centers participating in the BRAIN Initiative addressed data sharing needs by releasing a new data sharing policy focused on building an informatics infrastructure. This policy requires researchers to submit their data to archives, create a resource sharing plan, and include costs for data organization and archiving in grant applications.

Ensuring that data sharing policies reflect current data and research practices, however, is not a challenge unique to brain research. Just last year, the NIH solicited feedback from researchers and the public on what to include in a new NIH-wide data sharing policy. Most individuals who submitted comments supported the practice of data sharing and the importance of planning for where, when, and how scientific data should be managed and shared. However, commenters expressed concerns about a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy and the potential burden of data sharing on the research community.

Recently, the NIH incorporated these suggestions into a draft overarching data management and sharing policy. In early November, a Draft NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing was released for public comment. The draft policy applies to all NIH-funded research that results in the generation of scientific data. Rather than standardizing data practices across all scientific fields, the policy would require researchers to submit and follow a plan detailing how they will integrate data management and sharing into their research program. The NIH also encourages researchers to consider the legal, technical, and ethical factors that may limit data preservation and sharing.

Most scientists broadly support the idea that free and open data dissemination will accelerate biomedical research by allowing many more individuals to access and analyze large datasets. Given the enormity and diversity of datasets, as well as growing support of open data by the scientific community, data archiving and sharing has quickly become a reality that researchers cannot ignore.

The final NIH policy for data sharing will likely impact all NIH-funded researchers (including those funded by BRAIN). Therefore, BRAIN investigators are encouraged to weigh in on the draft policy. Those interested in commenting on the draft policy can do so via an easy and secure web-based portal. To ensure consideration, responses must be submitted by January 10, 2020.

The NIH will host an informational webinar on the draft policy and public comment process on Monday, December 16, 2020 from 12:30-2:00 p.m. (EDT). Please view the webinar here. Participants may send questions in advance of the webinar to SciencePolicy@od.nih.gov.