United we stand, divided we fall
It can be difficult for a small fish to survive alone, swimming in an ocean of predators. Many species of fish have found a way to stay safe: the school of fish. Moving around in a group has many advantages: fish are stronger by swimming together, so less vulnerable to predators, who find it easier to attack an isolated prey. They also create a current, which saves energy and increases the speed they can swim. The group is created collectively, each fish adapts to the movements of its neighbour, and the life expectancy of each fish increases as a result.
OK, INTERESTING, BUT WHAT ABOUT DATA ?
This fun fishy fact has parallels with our health data. Data from one individual is of little use to the collective, it is only when combined with a large pool of data that it can make a difference. For example, if we want to know the impact of Covid-19 on people with a specific disease, such as lupus, it is important to analyse data from as many patients as possible. The more datasets are combined, the more insightful the research will be, increasing the chances of finding effective treatments. The same goes for institutions, countries and researchers: collaboration makes the data stronger and the research faster. Combining data from different research fields also helps deepen understanding about health and disease.
HOW DO WE MAKE A SCHOOL OF DATA?
To make this possible, we need a framework to collect, manage and allow access to the data across international borders that respects the data protection rules of each country. The BY-COVID project is making this pooling of data possible, by bringing together researchers and institutions from many EU countries, so that the data from each country can be combined to generate knowledge for everyone. Combining data increases the power of research and improves patient care. BY-COVID is building a facilitating system to store, share, link and use data. For example, to make sure that the combined pool of data can be analysed, BY-COVID is developing metadata, which tags each piece of data so it can be found and understood.
IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE
Find out more about schools of fish: Fish swimming in schools save energy regardless of their spatial position - PMC
Find out more about the value and importance of sharing data: Coronavirus accelerates drive to share health data across borders | Research and Innovation
Find out more about the objectives of BY-COVID
Why we need data for specific diseases: Impact of COVID-19 on people with cystic fibrosis - PMC
This article shows the importance of linking data sets in the case of cancer: Linking data to improve health outcomes | The Medical Journal of Australia
We'd love to hear what you think about these issues.