Applying intelligent open science to combat future pandemics - Lucia Loffreda, Eleanor Cox, Rob Johnson
From Neil Coleman
Join Lucia Loffreda (speaker), Eleanor Cox (speaker), and Rob Johnson as they present five key lessons that can be learnt to enable preparedness for future pandemics, and Open Research/Open Science is an integral part of this preparedness.
Their work is publicly available at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7342221.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the potential strengths and existing weaknesses of open science practices and open data sharing to addressing urgent social and technological challenges. It was a time when pathogen genomic data was shared worldwide to characterise virus outbreaks, track the mutation and spread of the virus, and develop public health responses. However, this brought a renewed focus to the practice, incentives and infrastructures that crucially enable data sharing and reuse.
In 2022, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned Research Consulting to investigate the opportunities and challenges associated with open data sharing during the pandemic. This work follows a commitment made during the UK’S G7 Presidency, as published in the G7 Research Compact, and its findings are closely aligned to those outlined in the World Health Organization’s recently published guiding principles for pathogen genome data sharing.
Our talk will draw on evidence base of 295 sources, the views of 24 interviewees, and insights from 18 international peer reviewers to present five key lessons that can be learnt to enable preparedness for future pandemics.
First, our investigation found that effective emergency responses rely on long-term investments in open data infrastructures, standards, skills, and public health. Unfortunately, the pandemic exposed fundamental weaknesses in this area and this talk will discuss the long-term commitments that are needed from governments and funders to address the lack of investment in scientific research and public health infrastructure.
Second, the pandemic shone light on disparities in research capacity across global regions. As a result, our study highlighted that global sequencing datasets are heavily skewed towards the global north which led to dark spots in sequencing capacity and virus tracking. We recognise the diverse needs of actors involved in sequencing efforts to enable more equal data sharing mechanisms for future pandemics.
Third, our research showed that reformed incentives to promote data-sharing across boundaries are key to enabling equitable data sharing. This is particularly the case in low- and middle-income countries where the benefits of data sharing are often not distributed equally.
The fourth key lesson to emerge from this study is that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to re-assess established norms for data sharing. Guidelines for sharing sensitive datasets need to be robust and adaptable to emergency contexts, building on FAIR principles to ensure equitable among the diverse set of users. It also became clear that researchers favoured repositories that ensured they maintained the rights to, or received credit for, the reuse of submitted data.
Finally, we suggest that, building on the momentum from the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to move beyond existing data-sharing paradigms and towards intelligent applications of open science to be better prepared for future emergencies.