The DATA Project - Update

23 Mar 2020 - 12:45

Data is the lifeblood of research. While some researchers collect their own data through surveys, the past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in household surveys that have been conducted by countries’ statistical authorities, or by international organisations like the World Bank. Some of these surveys are easily accessible to researchers, but some surveys are not easily accessible, yet contain valuable information.

Within the context of REEP’s work, identifying data sources and opening access to data promotes research that can support governments implementing evidence-based policies that can enhance public health. In sub-Saharan Africa, data on alcohol, tobacco, food, environment and health exist but these are not often available on open access. In some instances, these datasets are focused on health issues. In other instances, health issues and responses related to tobacco, alcohol and food are tangential, but are nevertheless important in the bigger context of the dataset.

Since 2016, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has funded the Data on Aliments, Tobacco and Alcohol (DATA) in Africa project. The primary aim of the DATA Project has been to provide open access to data that has typically been “hidden” from the research community. This entails negotiating with data owners in government departments and academic research units to open access to their data. The DATA Project also provides a platform to students who collected data for their academic research to make this data available to the wider research community. Moreover, the project collates data across various channels and prepares these in research-ready formats. The data are shared as open-access data via DataFirst. The project also promotes the discovery of alcohol, tobacco and food data available on other data repositories by sharing the links to these repositories on the DATA portal.

To date, we have 140 datasets from 20 countries listed under the DATA project on DataFirst. We have had over 10 000 views and over 2 000 downloads of datasets we have opened access to. We have recorded 14 published research papers from DATA project datasets. The DATA project is officially closing in a few months’ time, but the platform will remain in place and it will continue to collate data and to open access to data.