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Science body urges data sharing

BBC News | November 22, 2005

Sharing government-held personal information could bring huge medical and social benefits, a government group has said.

The new Council for Science and Technology has recommended pooling data to deliver better targeted public services and improve policymaking.

But it said safeguards needed to be in place to protect people's privacy.

The government also needed to start a dialogue with the public on what was being proposed, it said.

Information is frequently shared between medical researchers and the private sector.

Health research

Report author Dr Mark Walport, who heads medical charity the Wellcome Trust, said he had seen the benefit of using databases for researching links between diseases and social conditions.

Studies can also monitor the effectiveness of treatments or of the impact of adopting certain policies.

However, the owner of the biggest collection of datasets in the country - the UK government - uses the information at its disposal at a fraction of its potential, according to Dr Walport.

Personal data is guarded by government departments because of concern about misuse and invasions of privacy.

But Dr Walport argued that with more creative thinking the government could improve medical and other social policy-making while at the same time protecting the privacy of individuals.


Last modified November 23, 2005




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