Sunday, October 26, 2008

Transparency of data

What's the difference between national polls and scientific data?

As this article at points out, the difference is transparency. The article takes the example of climate change modeling as one instance where a set of people with a big heap of quantitative data and statistical models share the data and the models' assumptions.

Interestingly, it's only since one month ago that clinical trials were required by the FDA to make some basic data accessible--September 27 of this year. But actually, it seems like this does not give the opportunity to re-examine the raw data--only a kind of summary of demographics and outcomes. The intent is to stop people from concealing negative trials.

But, to take the point in another direction, shouldn't drug trials be more transparent than political polls, which are run for profit by people who have a financial interest in concealing their raw data and their weighting methods (e.g., for "likely voter" screens)?

Oh, right. So are drug trials. Sorry.

But the ultimate transparency, and one that seems like it's long overdue, is for raw clinical trial data to be open-source, so that people with interests other than profit can examine that data and re-analyze it after the original academicians have published the initial report.

No comments: