Alongside the growing availability of high-value open data for research are key obstacles — discoverability and the ability to access and use that data. The global science competition Open Science Prize was launched by the Wellcome Trust, US National Institutes of Health, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to encourage new ways to remove these obstacles. In the first phase of this new initiative, six international teams received prizes to develop prototypes. The teams presented their prototypes at the BD2K Open Data Science Symposium in Washington, D.C., on December 1.
OpenTrialsFDA, one of the finalist prototypes, was presented by Erick Turner, MD, associate professor in the OHSU Psychiatry Department and staff psychiatrist at the Portland VAMC, along with collaborators Dr. Ben Goldacre, senior clinical research fellow in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, and Open Knowledge International.
The prototype is a new application of existing open data techniques and code designed to improve access to drug approval packages submitted to and made available by the Food and Drug Administration. These documents contain detailed information about the methods and results of clinical trials and often contain unpublished information on clinical trials.
The FDA databases are notoriously difficult to access, search, and aggregate. Much of the information in these packages is only available in image form and is not searchable. The OpenTrialsFDA application converts documents into searchable text, scrapes all the relevant data and documents from the FDA documents, runs Optical Character Recognition across all documents, links this information to other clinical trial data, and presents it through a user-friendly web interface.
The OpenTrialsFDA prototype definitely fits the Open Science Prize goal: to make the outputs from science and the research process more broadly accessible.
Voting is open from now until 6 January 2017. The public is invited to help select the most promising and innovative prototype from the six finalists. One prototype will receive the grand prize of $230,000.