AMIA urges NIH to improve data sharing requirements

A 15-year-old data sharing policy of the National Institutes of Health should be updated to aid research.

A 15-year-old data sharing policy of the National Institutes of Health should be updated to aid research.

That’s the view of the American Medical Informatics Association, which has issued a comment letter calling for improvements to the national health organization’s rules governing data sharing.

The NIH issued a request for information in October to seek feedback on how its existing policy should be updated and how new provisions of a Data Management and Sharing Policy should be implemented. The agency established its current data sharing policy in 2003, requiring grants that receive more than $500,000 annually to develop data sharing plans.

However, AMIA notes that existing rules hamper the ability of researchers to share information. In addition, several NIH institutes and centers have developed their own policies, containing varying requirements, since 2003.

AMIA, an organization of biomedical and health informatics experts, recommended a phased approach to implement new data management and sharing requirements for NIH-funded research and noted that quality data management and sharing plans are prerequisite to the NIH’s goals of making research data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, or FAIR.

AMIA commented that quality data management and sharing plans are “prerequisite” to achieve the vision of FAIR data principles, and it said that the approach should be the long-term goal of the NIH data management and sharing plan.

The organization also noted that a key deficiency in the current policy was that grant applications are not scored on the quality of their data sharing plans, and as a result, those plans have not functioned well and led to questions about how NIH-supported research data is made available to other researchers and the broader public.

While supporting an NIH-wide data sharing approach, AMIA strongly recommends that the DMSP encourage, if not require, its institutes and centers to factor the quality of data management and sharing plans into the overall impact score through the peer review process, especially for those grants that are supported at high levels or support programmatic priorities.

Further, AMIA also recommended that the NIH incentivize deposition of scientific data in NIH-endorsed databases and knowledge bases by allowing such applicants to comply with streamlined DMSP requirements.

“Data management and sharing are vital to continuous discovery and learning,” says Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, AMIA’s CEO and president. “Setting expectations for how NIH-supported research should be managed and shared, using the long-established peer-review process to ensure best practice, will greatly improve the downstream utility of our national investment in NIH research.”

AMIA’s full recommendations to the NIH can be found here.

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