Reflections on FORCE2016 - Data Sharing and Public Health

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As a new member of the FORCE11 community, I am grateful to have received a travel fellowship to attend FORCE2016 this year. I had heard very little about FORCE11 before applying for the fellowship, but the diversity of the group's members, as well as the emphasis on interactivity, collaboration, and openness quickly convinced me that I would like to join in its goal to “bring about a change in modern scholarly communications through the effective use of information technology.”

A month has passed since the conference, and during that time, I've completed my coursework and final assignments, and as of this Friday, will officially hold an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. The future has been on my mind a lot lately—as you might expect!--and my reflections on my FORCE2016 conference experience were inextricably tied to my thoughts on my future career in scholarly communication, and how I can best contribute to the evolution of the field.

While at Simmons, I have gravitated towards courses in information organization and data management, and thanks to an excellent course in scientific research data management, have found myself working at Harvard Medical School as the Research Data Manager Intern, helping to conduct outreach to biomedical researchers about their data management practices and needs.

Given this area of interest, the most enlightening sessions of the FORCE2016 conference to me took place on Monday afternoon, starting with the keynote talk by John Brownstein on “Digital Disease Detection and the Future of Participatory Research.” Brownstein shared his work in mining non-traditional data sources to detect disease outbreaks and, ultimately, improve public health. He was followed by a session called “Data by the People, for the People,” featuring short talks that touched on various issues in human subjects research, including crowdsourcing the sharing of personal genomic data, improving disease analysis through sharing phenotypic data, reporting bias and peer review, data sharing requirements, and social networks for health. These talks illuminated the obstacles to sharing health data, apart from the most apparent privacy concerns, as well as the emerging opportunities for analysis, re-mixing, and collaboration.

The insights provided through these presentations and the subsequent panel discussion have sparked my interest in the intersection between public health research, privacy, and data sharing, and I hope to engage with these ideas while at Harvard Medical School and in my career in scholarly communication.

Thanks to FORCE2016, and to the diverse viewpoints and experiences it presents, I've been able to engage more deeply and meaningfully with emerging trends and issues in scholarly communication, and I look forward to staying involved with this community in future.

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I look forward to staying with this community,