How do we collate the huge amount of data?

A new report from Elsevier outlines how Covid-19 could change research culture for the better by showing the need for co-ordinating data collection globally. Oli Cram reports.

Elsevier’s ‘Future of Research’ report provides insight into the impact of the Covid-19 on clinical trial data, highlighting how the lessons learnt from this global health crisis provide valuable learnings for the future. 

The report summarises the key take-aways from a recent webinar series which cast a spotlight on three leading experts in the research community who explained how clinical research is adapting, innovating and transforming its operation to respond to Covid-19.  

Despite the current pandemic being at the forefront of our minds, there are significant take-aways that resonate, not only for the present pandemic but also future health crises. 

For example, how advanced technology and real-world data can be effectively used to expedite the route from evidence to practice by responding to evolving medical knowledge and recommended standards of care. 

Standardising and harmonising the collection of data

The volume of health data is expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead. By digitising, collecting, collating and effectively using big data, healthcare organisations will be able to act faster. 

Using data analytics in healthcare has the potential to improve outcomes; however, the report highlights that Covid-19 underscores the need for worldwide
co-ordination to do this effectively. 

The impact of the pandemic has led to greater collaboration, increased confidence in findings and improved understanding between researchers. 

By opening up data in a safe way, through international contributed datasets, we are finding ways to accelerate science faster than ever to effectively harness clinical information and support the delivery of knowledge driven care. 

Ensuring continuity of care through global collaboration 

Partnerships among researchers ensure that knowledge, skills and techniques are shared effectively and mutually benefit the participants. 

In the current climate, the initiation of rapid, collaborative research was a vital element which facilitated the continuation of care for Covid-19 patients. 

Global partnerships enabled clinician-researchers to balance the challenges of delivering critical care to them alongside initiating research trials. Global research networks serve to increase research involvement, to build research capacity and to develop a new and improved research culture. 

Communicating research transparently

Over the past decade, there has been significant change in the media landscape with approximately a doubling in global scientific output every nine years, and 2020 has been no exception to the trend.

The scientific community’s response to Covid-19 has resulted in a large volume of research moving through the publication pipeline at extraordinary speed through the means of preprints, press releases and social media amp­lification. Although the nature of this emergency warrants accelerated publishing, measures are required to safeguard the accuracy of scientific evidence. 

As we look ahead, we must be prepared for future pandemics by establishing an efficient research response. 

We need to develop a transparent and trusted system that clearly communicates what data is being collected and why, to effectively harness information to support the delivery of knowledge-driven care. 

Global collaboration is an essential element that will allow clinician-researchers to effectively balance delivery of patient care while also channeling efforts to establish the required research trials to progress future evidence-based treatments. 

It is vital that, going forward, we create a culture that promotes high-quality research by guaranteeing transparency and ethics.

To listen back to the Future of Research webinars or read the full summary report, please go to 

Oli Cram (right) is MACRO general manager at Elsevier Clinical Solutions