Menu ENN Search

MSF initiative of proactive data sharing

Summary of article1

Location: Global

What we know: Data sharing in humanitarian contexts is important to build evidence but has practical and ethical challenges.

What this adds: MSF has developed a pro-active data sharing policy for routinely collected clinical and research data, governed by ethical principles. A scientific publications policy prioritises open access. The agency aspires to online sharing of research protocols and an open dataset.

Public health crises such as the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis highlight the need for improved sharing of data. For humanitarian organisations, there is a lack of guidance on the practical aspects of making such data available.

Until 2012, decisions to share MSF data were made on an informal case-by-case basis on request. In 2012, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) decided to adopt a proactive data sharing policy for routinely collected clinical and research data. A recent article describes how this policy was developed, the principles underlying it, and the practical measures taken to facilitate data sharing.

A key starting point for the MSF policy were the principles in the Full Joint Statement by Funders of Health Research (see link below). The policy was adapted to the MSF context informed by consultation with the Wellcome Trust and the MSF Ethics Review Board and based on a template from the UK National Cancer Research Institute.

The ethical principles underlying data sharing in MSF relate to medical confidentiality, respect for the privacy and dignity of individuals, equity (balancing needs of practitioners/researchers/funders/other analysts/communities), efficiency, non-maleficence (highly sensitive data), social benefit and intellectual property (open access to research). Challenges to data sharing explored in the article relate to data collection and protection, ensuring MSF staff share data, ensuring data sharing is included in research proposals, data quality, and data preservation.

Recently, MSF has introduced a scientific publication policy that prioritises open access, and the agency is working on a policy for online sharing of research protocols. There are aspirations to create a truly open dataset, but the initial aim is to enable data sharing via a managed access procedure so that security, legal, and ethical concerns can be addressed.

Key links

MSF data sharing policy (Dec 2103):

Access the Joint Statement by Funders of Health Research at

MSF’s institutional repository for its research publications:

Show footnotes

1Karunakara U (2013). Data Sharing in a Humanitarian Organisation: The Experience of Médecins Sans Frontières. PLoS Med 10(12): e1001562.doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001562

More like this

FEX: Improving the quality of nutritional survey data worldwide: Putting Child Kwashiorkor on the Map Initiative

By Lauren Browne Lauren Browne is the Data Manager for the Kwashiorkor Mapping project and joined the team after interning with ACF-UK and Save the Children UK. She completed...

FEX: Methodological challenges for operational research in the humanitarian context

By Stephanie Stern and Melchior de Roquemaurel Stephanie Stern leads the Action Against Hunger LAB project which aims to reinforce the impact and uptake of knowledge. Before...

FEX: Operational research in low-income countries: what, why, and how?

Summary of research1 A Lancet published article puts forward a definition of operational research, articulates its relevance to infectious-disease-control programmes, and...

FEX: Food aid for nutrition: A landscape review of current research and implications for future studies

View this article as a pdf By Maria Wrabel, Kristine Caiafa, Beatrice Lorge Rogers and Patrick Webb All authors are affiliated with the Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) project...

en-net: Nutrition Advisor 60%, May to Sept 2016, Geneva

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent humanitarian organization providing medical aid to victims of man-made or natural disasters, epidemics and...

FEX: Management of At-risk Mothers and Infants under six months (MAMI): Update and direction

View this article as a pdf Summary of meeting report1 A two-day meeting of the MAMI Special Interest Group (SIG)2 was held on 12-13 December 2019, organised by Emergency...

en-net: Médecins Sans Frontières Spain is looking for a Nutrition Referent Advisor


S/he will contribute to define medical-nutritional interventions and strategies, also protocols to implement quality nutritional...

en-net: CNN article missing IYCFE lens

This is an unfortunate article that could use a high-level response....

FEX: Action Contre la Faim

Name Action Contre la Faim Address rue Niepce, 75014 Paris, France Year formed 1979 Telephone +33 (1) 43 35 88 88 Director Jean Luc Bodin Fax +33 (1) 43 35 88...

FEX: Mortality and causes of mortality in children 6-59 months of age admitted to inpatient therapeutic feeding centres in Niger

By Florence Tapié de Céleyran, Kerstin Hanson, Cecilia Ferreyra, Nuria Salse, Didier Tshialala, Cristian Casademont, Rebecca Grais and Helena Huerga View this...

FEX: Evaluation of the Supplementary Feeding Programme carried out in Marsabit District, Kenya, April-November 1997

Vincent Brown (Epicentre), Sylvia Carbonell (Médecins Sans Frontières) MSF implemented a nutrition rehabilitation programme in Marsabit District between April...

FEX: OptiMA study in Burkina Faso: Emerging findings and additional insights

View this article as a pdf By Kevin PQ Phelan Kevin PQ Phelan is Nutrition Advisor at ALIMA, the Alliance for International Medical Action based in Paris. Before joining...

FEX: Factors affecting decision-making on use of combined/simplified acute malnutrition protocols in Niger, north-east Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan

View this article as a pdf Summary of research1 By Naoko Kozuki, Mamadou Seni, Amin Sirat, Omar Abdullahi, Mena Fundi Eso Adalbert, Marie Biotteau, Jeanette Bailey, Amelia...

FEX: Summary of Field Exchange Evaluation

From July to November 2012, the ENN undertook an evaluation of Field Exchange (FEX) use amongst its readers. The aims were to establish how FEX is used to inform programming,...

FEX: Letter on commercial production of RUTF, by Michel Lescanne

Dear Editor The widespread application of CTC (Community-based Therapeutic Care) in emergencies and stable situations raises the question of the availability of Ready to Use...

en-net: Consultant (Research Analyst) for the Society for Implementation Science in Nutrition

Consultant – Research Analyst
Terms of Reference

The Society for Implementation Science in Nutrition (SISN), is a professional and scientific society...

FEX: Cost analysis of the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in West Africa

Summary of Research Isanaka S, Menzies NA, Sayyad J, Ayoola M, Grais RF and Doyon S. (2016). Cost analysis of the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in West Africa. Matern...

FEX: Action Against Hunger/Action Contre la Faim: Promoting a comprehensive nutrition-security approach and organisational culture to enhance nutrition-sensitive programming

By Maureen Gallagher and Julien Morel Maureen Gallagher is Senior Nutrition & Health Advisor with ACF-USA Julien Morel is Senior Nutrition Security and Social Protection...

Eurosurveillance Ebola infant feeding research papers

A Eurosurveillance recent paper describes the experiences and outcomes of two Ebola virus discordant mother-child pairs admitted to an MSF Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) of...

FEX: Acceptability of peanut-based RUTF to malnourished pregnant and lactating women in Bangladesh

Summary of research1 Location: Bangladesh What we know: Malnutrition prevalence is high among pregnant and lactating women in Bangladesh. Nutrition rehabilitation programmes...


Reference this page

Summary of article (2014). MSF initiative of proactive data sharing. Field Exchange 47, April 2014. p37.



Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.