Dr Sherwin Nuland (a surgeon and author of several books, including How We Die) gave the commencement address at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 2007 graduation ceremony. On route to his main point (the most important aspect of patient care is caring for the patient [original source forgotten by me]), he quoted a range of dismal facts about the state of the US medical system and healthcare research funding.
We’ve heard it before. It is an important problem. I’m a fixer: I want to help fix it…. except it is so large and complex, and I’m not in a position of power.
But. In the spirit of “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” [Margaret Mead], I think that sharing data can be part of the answer. It is something that each scientist can do, individually. Each shared dataset may make a small difference in subsequent resource use, and together we may eventually make a large difference in the efficiency and outcome of biomedical research.
Sure, the hope relies on caveats and leaps of faith — but the pursuit allows us do something, rather than shrugging our shoulders and waiting for someone else to fix the problems.
Another speaker (Dr John Horne) in the ceremony charged us to “be bold.” I think a blog post entitled “Changing the world” counts, don’t you?