The changes concern researchers’ relation to their material.
The first change has been discussed on the Ethics Blog. It is that samples and data that individual research groups collect begin to be saved, documented and analyzed in joint biobanks. The material is then made available to other researchers, both nationally and internationally.
This requires an attitude change among researchers who are used to store their data material locally and then use it locally. Now, one sends the material to the biobank instead, which takes care of it and provides service to researchers in the form of analysis, access to more data, advice, and more. Perhaps researchers need not always collect their own material, if relevant data are available via the biobank infrastructure.
This change is discussed in the editorial by Joakim Dillner, Acting director of BBMRI.se, and in an interview with Mark Divers, Head of the biobank facility that BBMRI.se built up at Karolinska Institutet.
The second change has not been discussed on this blog. It is featured in an interview in the newsletter with a researcher in cognitive neurophysiology, Gustav Nilsonne. It is closely related to the first, but requires a change in attitude to what it means to make research available through publication in scientific journals.
The change is about making research open not only through Open Access publication of scientific articles, but also by making raw data available. Such a change is significant in several ways:
- Data collected with efforts of many research participants can be used multiple times instead of disappearing in forgotten archives.
- Published findings can be critically examined; it becomes more difficult to cheat or be negligent.
- It becomes easier to make meta-analysis of data from many studies.
These changes can of course be seen as two sides of the same coin. Researchers seeking services from the biobank facility must accept that other researchers apply for access to “their” data … which thereby become open.