Open Trials: Open Knowledge Announce Plans for Open, Online Database of Clinical Trials

Open Knowledge today announced plans to develop Open Trials, an open, online database of information about the world’s clinical research trials funded by The Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The project, which is designed to increase transparency and improve access to research, will be directed by Dr. Ben Goldacre, an internationally known leader on clinical transparency.


Open Trials will aggregate information from a wide variety of existing sources in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the data and documents related to all trials of medicines and other treatments around the world. Conducted in partnership with the Center for Open Science and supported by the Center’s Open Science Framework, the project will also track whether essential information about clinical trials is transparent and publicly accessible so as to improve understanding of whether specific treatments are effective and safe.

“There have been numerous positive statements about the need for greater transparency on information about clinical trials, over many years, but it has been almost impossible to track and audit exactly what is missing,” Dr. Goldacre, the project’s Chief Investigator and a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, explained. “This project aims to draw together everything that is known around each clinical trial. The end product will provide valuable information for patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers—not just on individual trials, but also on how whole sectors, researchers, companies, and funders are performing. It will show who is failing to share information appropriately, who is doing well, and how standards can be improved.”

Patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers use the evidence from clinical trials to make informed decisions about which treatments are best. But studies show that roughly half of all clinical trial results are not published, with positive results published twice as often as negative results. In addition, much of the important information about the methods and findings of clinical trials is only made available outside the normal indexes of academic journals.

“This project will help to shed light on both good and bad practices by the sponsors of clinical trials,” Stuart Buck, LJAF Vice President of Research Integrity, explained. “If those sponsors become more transparent about their successes and failures, medical science will advance more quickly, thus benefitting patients’ health.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Open Knowledge on the use of the Open Science Framework (OSF) for this project. Open Trials is a great example of how the free, open source OSF infrastructure can be utilized by the community in different ways to increase transparency in scientific research,” Andrew Sallans, Center for Open Science Partnerships Lead, explained.

Open Trials will help to automatically identify which trial results have not been disclosed by matching registry data on trials that have been conducted against documents containing trial results. This will facilitate routine public audit of undisclosed results. It will also improve discoverability of other documents around clinical trials, which will be indexed and, in some cases, hosted. Lastly, it will help improve recruitment for clinical trials by making information and commentary on ongoing trials more accessible.

“This is an incredible opportunity to identify which trial results are being withheld,” Rufus Pollock, President and Founder of Open Knowledge, explained. “It is the perfect example of a project where opening up data and presenting it in a usable form will have a direct impact—it can literally save lives. We’re absolutely delighted to partner with Ben Goldacre, a leading expert and advocate in this space, as well as with the Center for Open Science and LJAF to conduct this groundbreaking work.”

The first phase of the Open Trials project is scheduled for completion in March 2017. For project updates, please follow @opentrials on twitter

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