Does Proprietary Data Hinder Research?

Does Proprietary Data Hinder Research?

A widely-discussed article at Newsweek about the ‘data problem in medicine’ sheds light on the fact that doctors don’t have access to data about the very medicines the prescribe. In fact, of all clinical trials, as many as half are never published, leaving doctors in the dark and patients at risk.

In the perhaps most extreme example, an antiarrhythmic drug called lorcainide was tested in the 1980s, and 9 people of the lorcanide group died vs. just one of the placebo group. This study could have prevented thousands of deaths during the decade, but was, for some reason, never published until the researchers apologized for the fact in 1993.

This is, in part, a problem of the community: journals are more likely to publish positive results as they can, well, sell more copies this way. On the other hand, manufacture of pharmaceuticals is a multi-billion dollar industry so money tends to slip into the equation when it shouldn’t.

For there is a real commercial boon in not sharing all trial data: on the surface, pharmaceutical companies can suffer greatly from the competitors if the published studies reveal the way the drugs work. On another level, there’s, also the incentive to push a drug that has swallowed a lot of money for fear of not making up for the investment. This, of course, extends beyond the pharmaceutical industry.

Proprietary data in economics

An intriguing article at Quartz acknowledges that more and more studies are based on proprietary data. In fact, from the studies published in the American Economic Review, a very prestigious economic journal, the number that use proprietary (either Government or private) data has risen from 8% in 2006 to 46% in 2014. That is, researchers have asked either the government or private companies for data, and more and more virtually unreplicable studies are being published.

Here’s the rub. Companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google, which have hoarded petabytes upon petabytes of data, have a) no real incentive to do anything noncommercial with the data; b) a negative incentive to share the data; c) but even if they do, they are likely to share it with those who would paint a rosy picture about them. A recent study on proprietary data states just that: “To obtain those data, academic economists have to develop a reputation to treat their sources nicely.” And treat them nicely they will, because such data sets are too unique and (one might imagine) too interesting to pass by.

Conclusions

Proprietary data, then, in some fields can be seen to be plainly bad, like in the cases of drug trials. In other fields, the effect cannot be measured, but there’s a very real danger that we’ll have a publication bias towards praising the company that released the data set to the researcher. It’s inevitably a trade-off, but for now it’s the only way scientists can access that data.

By Lauris Veips

Digitizing Contact Center to Reduce Call Volume by 30% and Improve NPS

Digitizing Contact Center to Reduce Call Volume by 30% and Improve NPS

Digitizing Contact Center With a Net Promoter Score (NPS) average of 24, telecom holds the lowest industry average according to the NPS Benchmarks Report. Operational inefficiencies in contact centers play a major role in the low ...
Daniela Streng

Preventing IT Outages and Downtime

Preventing IT Outages As businesses continue to embrace digital transformation, availability has become a company’s most valuable commodity. Availability refers to the state of when an organization’s IT infrastructure, which is critical to operating a ...
Leonid Feinberg

9 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Cloud

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Cloud According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow 17% in 2020 to total $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019. While the ...
Ronald van Loon

How Continued Learning Can Help Data Scientists Solve Industry-Specific Challenges

Data scientists are, first and foremost, problem solvers. But new problems can’t always be solved with old tricks.Currently organizations in every industry are experiencing overwhelming challenges, many of them emerging from shifts to digital, the ...
Are Brain Implants the Future of Humanity?

Are Brain Implants the Future of Humanity?

Future of Brain Implants Scientists have been researching and developing brain implants that could connect the human brain to other devices in order to allow human beings to control things with their minds. But in ...
Automate Order Fallout Resolution Using Self-healing Framework

Automate Order Fallout Resolution Using Self-healing Framework

Automate Order Fallout Resolution Using Self-healing Framework to Accelerate Resolution Time by 98% Most Digital Service Providers (DSPs) face a common challenge of meeting due dates for their customer orders. The instability and delay in ...