17 April 2015

This paper examines the experiences of data sharing within sectors outside of public health to identify fresh perspectives on how to resolve the data sharing challenges confronting the public health community.


Matthew Brack

Former Project Manager, Centre on Global Health Security

Dr Tito Castillo

Independent Consultant; Managing Director, Xperimint Ltd


Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.


  • Several recent public health emergencies of international concern have demonstrated a worldwide need for improved surveillance data sharing procedures. Lessons learned from other sectors have the potential to inform the future development of data sharing in the global public health community.

  • At the individual level, the benefits of sharing data have yet to be proven, in any context, and disincentives predominate. Meanwhile, the challenges of achieving truly shared and equitable benefits from data sharing relationships between high-income, and low- and middle-income countries remain largely unrealized.

  • The technical solutions to data sharing have already been found and implemented, particularly in the commercial sector, but in many sectors established working models impede the development of a data sharing culture. In contexts where open data is prized, data sharing is no guarantee of transparency and can be highly politicized.

  • Sharing public health data is faced with particular problems arising from complex international legislative frameworks that govern intellectual property and data protection. Certain tools, such as open data licences, are allowing data to be shared legally and openly, but the legislative landscape remains poorly understood.

  • Global policies for sharing public health data do little to address local concerns, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Solutions are required that acknowledge the needs of local data collection environments that can extend to supporting public health data sharing on a global scale.