Whose data are these?

A few months ago, the journal Epidemiology published a commentary and an editorial about data of sperm count in males in Denmark. These data were not yet published by the researchers who collected them, however they were available on the web site of the Danish National Board of Health, one of the sponsors of the study.

The team of researchers who collect the data requested the Board of Health to remove the report from its website. They want to be sure the data show a real trend. Besides, they believe that “scientists have the right to be the first to publish their own research”.

On the other side, the Board of Health stated that the program received large financial support from public funding and it was done in a public hospital and the Board believes the “sperm counts are public health data that belong in the public domain”.

How do the data ended up in a journal? The editor of the journal said heard about it from a young Danish researcher and his purpose was to “put the data in a better context than they were sitting on this website, with report only in Danish”.

Obviously, everybody agrees with the senior medical officer at the Board of Health who oversaw the report who said “the situation could have been handled more elegantly”.  Still, the question is: whose data are these?

To learn more:

Danish Sperm Counts Spark Data Dispute, on Science.

Sperm Counts, Data Responsibility, and Good Scientific Practice, on Epidemiology.

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