Data Sharing Statements for Clinical Trials

A requirement of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors

Dtsch Arztebl Int 2017; 114(24): 401-3; DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0401

Taichman, D B; Sahni, P; Pinborg, A; Peiperl, L; Laine, C; James, A; Hong, S; Haileamlak, A; Gollogly, L; Godlee, F; Frizelle, F A; Florenzano, F; Drazen, J M; Bauchner, H; Baethge, C; Backus, J

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) believes there is an ethical obligation to responsibly share data generated by interventional clinical trials because trial participants have put themselves at risk. In January 2016 we published a proposal aimed at helping to create an environment in which the sharing of deidentified individual participant data becomes the norm. In response to our request for feedback we received many comments from individuals and groups (1). Some applauded the proposals while others expressed disappointment they did not more quickly create a commitment to data sharing. Many raised valid concerns regarding the feasibility of the proposed requirements, the necessary resources, the real or perceived risks to trial participants, and the need to protect the interests of patients and researchers.

It is encouraging that data sharing is already occurring in some settings. Over the past year, however, we have learned that the challenges are substantial and the requisite mechanisms are not in place to mandate universal data sharing at this time. Although many issues must be addressed for data sharing to become the norm, we remain committed to this goal.

Therefore, ICMJE will require the following as conditions of consideration for publication of a clinical trial report in our member journals:

1. As of July 1, 2018 manuscripts submitted to ICMJE journals that report the results of clinical trials must contain a data sharing statement as described below.

2. Clinical trials that begin enrolling participants on or after January 1, 2019 must include a data sharing plan in the trial’s registration. The ICMJE’s policy regarding trial registration is explained at www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/publishing-and-editorial-issues/clinical-trial-registration.
html. If the data sharing plan changes after registration this should be reflected in the statement submitted and published with the manuscript, and updated in the registry record.

Data sharing statements must indicate the following:

  • Whether individual deidentified participant data (including data dictionaries) will be shared;
  • What data in particular will be shared;
  • Whether additional, related documents will be available (e.g., study protocol, statistical analysis plan, etc.);
  • When the data will become available and for how long;
  • By what access criteria data will be shared (including with whom, for what types of analyses and by what mechanism).

Illustrative examples of data sharing statements that would meet these requirements are in the Table.

These initial requirements do not yet mandate data sharing, but investigators should be aware that editors may take into consideration data sharing statements when making editorial decisions. These minimum requirements are intended to move the research enterprise closer to fulfilling our ethical obligation to participants. Some ICMJE member journals already maintain, or may choose to adopt, more stringent requirements for data sharing.

Sharing clinical trial data is one step in the process articulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other professional organizations as best practice for clinical trials: universal prospective registration; public disclosure of results from all clinical trials (including through journal publication); and data sharing. Although universal compliance with the requirement to prospectively register clinical trials has not yet been achieved and requires continued emphasis, we must work toward fulfilling the other steps of best practice as well—including data sharing.

As we move forward into this new norm where data are shared, greater understanding and collaboration among funders, ethics committees, journals, trialists, data analysts, participants, and others will be required. We are currently working with members of the research community to facilitate practical solutions to enable data sharing. The United States Office for Human Research Protections has indicated that provided the appropriate conditions are met by those receiving them, the sharing of deidentified individual participant data from clinical trials does not require separate consent from trial participants (2). Specific elements to enable data sharing statements that meet these requirements have been adopted at ClinicalTrials.gov (https://prsinfo.clinicaltrials.gov/definitions.html#shareData). The WHO also supports the addition of such elements at the primary registries of the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. Unresolved issues remain, including appropriate scholarly credit to those who share data, and the resources needed for data access, the transparent processing of data requests, and data archiving. We welcome creative solutions to these problems at www.icmje.org.

We envision a global research community in which sharing deidentified data becomes the norm. Working toward this vision will help maximize the knowledge gained from the efforts and sacrifices of clinical trial participants.

Conflict of interest statement
Laragh Gollogly is an employee of the World Health Organization (WHO). Abraham Haileamlak is Editor-in-Chief of the Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences and works for, and is paid by, Jimma University. Christine Laine is employed as the Editor-in-Chief of Annals of Internal Medicine. Darren B. Taichman is an employee of Annals of Internal Medicine and the American College of Physicians. Larry Peiperl is Chief Editor of PLOS Medicine and receives a salary and benefits from the Public Library of Science, a non-profit publisher and advocate of open access research. He has received reimbursement of expenses from the WHO and the Association of Healthcare Journalists for travels unrelated to the preparation of this manuscript. Christopher Baethge, Howard Bauchner, Joyce Backus, Jeffrey M. Drazen, Fernando Florenzano, Frank A. Frizelle, Fiona Godlee, Sung-Tae Hong, Astrid James,
Anja Pinborg, and Peush Sahni declare that no conflicts of interest exist.

Note: This article is being published simultaneously in Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ (British Medical Journal), Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Deutsches Ärzteblatt (German Medical Journal), Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), Journal of Korean Medical Science, New England Journal of Medicine, New Zealand Medical Journal, PLOS Medicine, The Lancet, Revista Médica de Chile
(Medical Journal of Chile), and Ugeskrift for Læger (Danish Medical Journal).

Dr. Sahni’s affiliation as representative and past president of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) does not imply endorsement by WAME member journals that are not part of the ICMJE.


Darren B. Taichman, M.D., Ph.D., ICMJE-Secretary, ICMJE, Executive Deputy Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine; Peush Sahni, M.B., B.S., M.S., Ph.D.

Representative and Past President, World Association of Medical Editors

( WAME); Anja Pinborg, M.D., Scientific Editor-in-Chief, Ugeskrift for Læger (Danish Medical Journal); Larry Peiperl, M.D., Chief Editor, PLOS Medicine; Christine Laine, M.D., M.P.H., Editor-in-Chief, Annals of Internal Medicine; Astrid James, M.B., B.S., Deputy Editor, The Lancet; Sung-Tae Hong, M.D., Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Korean Medical Science; Abraham Haileamlak, M.D., Editor-in-Chief, Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences; Laragh Gollogly, M.D., M.P.H., Editor, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Coordinator, WHO Press; Fiona Godlee, F.R.C.P., Editor-in-Chief, The BMJ (British Medical Journal); Frank A. Frizelle, M.B., Ch.B., F.R.A.C.S., Editor-in-Chief, New Zealand Medical Journal; Fernando Florenzano, M.D., Editor, Revsita Médica de Chile (Medical Journal of Chile); Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D. Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine; Howard Bauchner, M.D.,Editor-in-Chief, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) & JAMA Network; Christopher Baethge, M.D., Chief Scientific Editor, Deutsches Ärzteblatt (German Medical Journal) & Deutsches Ärzteblatt International; Joyce Backus, M.S.L.S., Representative and Associate Director for Library Operations, National Library of Medicine

Cite this as:
Taichman DB, Sahni P, Pinborg A, Peiperl L, Laine C, James A, Hong ST, Haileamlak A, Gollogly L, Godlee F, Frizelle FA, Florenzano F, Drazen JM, Bauchner H, Baethge C, Backus J: Data sharing statements for clinical trials —a requirement of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2017; 114: 401–3. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0401

Taichman DB, Backus J, Baethge C, et al.: Sharing clinical trial data: a proposal from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Ann Intern Med 2016; 164: 505–6 CrossRef MEDLINE
Menikoff J. Letter from Jerry Menikoff, MD, JD, Director, Office for Human Research Protections, to ICMJE Secretariat. 7 March 2017. http://icmje.org/news-and-editorials/menikoff_icmje_questions_20170307.pdf (last accessed on 30 May 2017).
1.Taichman DB, Backus J, Baethge C, et al.: Sharing clinical trial data: a proposal from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Ann Intern Med 2016; 164: 505–6 CrossRef MEDLINE
2.Menikoff J. Letter from Jerry Menikoff, MD, JD, Director, Office for Human Research Protections, to ICMJE Secretariat. 7 March 2017. http://icmje.org/news-and-editorials/menikoff_icmje_questions_20170307.pdf (last accessed on 30 May 2017).

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