Leading global health bodies including academic journals, NGOs, research funders and institutes, have committed to sharing data and results relevant to the current Zika crisis and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible. Organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, the U.S. National Institute of Health and the Wellcome Trust, along with leading academic journals including Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine, have signed a joint declaration and hope that other bodies will come on board in the coming weeks.
The statement is intended to ensure that any information that might have value in combatting the Zika outbreak is made available to the international community, free of charge, as soon as is feasibly possible. Journal signatories provide assurance that doing so will not preclude researchers from subsequently publishing papers in their titles.
It follows a consensus statement arising from a WHO consultation in September 2015, in which leading international stakeholders from multiple sectors affirmed that timely and transparent prepublication sharing of data and results during public health emergencies must become the global norm.
Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement, said: "Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency. This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly. It's critical that as results become available they are shared rapidly in a way that is equitable, ethical and transparent. This will ensure that the knowledge gained is turned quickly into health interventions that can have an impact on the epidemic. It's extremely heartening to see so many leading international organizations united in this unprecedented commitment to open science, reinforcing the decision by the WHO to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern."
The full text of the joint declaration follows, along with a list of signatories:
"The arguments for sharing data, and the consequences of not doing so, have been thrown into stark relief by the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.
"In the context of a public health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis.
"We are committed to working in partnership to ensure that the global response to public health emergencies is informed by the best available research evidence and data, as such:
•Journal signatories will make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access. Any data or preprint deposited for unrestricted dissemination ahead of submission of any paper will not pre-empt its publication in these journals.
•Funder signatories will require researchers undertaking work relevant to public health emergencies to set in place mechanisms to share quality-assured interim and final data as rapidly and widely as possible, including with public health and research communities and the World Health Organisation.
"We urge other organizations to make the same commitments.
"This commitment is in line with the consensus statement agreed at a WHO expert consultation on data sharing last year whereby researchers are expected to share data at the earliest opportunity, once they are adequately controlled for release and subject to any safeguards required to protect research participants and patients."
Signatories to the statement:
Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
South African Medical Research Council
UK Medical Research Council
ZonMw - The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science