Open and abundant data

I've spent the last two days at The Project: Digital Disruption, a conference on how digital disruption is changing the way we live and work. (See #ProjectDisrupt on Twitter for some coverage.) Given long academic publishing lead times, it was serendipity that during the conference my editorial, "Open and abundant data is the future of rehabilitation and research", was formally published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. It leads the May 2014 issue. In that piece, I argue that many of the constraints on our previous research and practice are going to radically change as data becomes both open and abundant in the future. With that will also come new challenges and opportunities. Normally I'd summarise here the primary conclusions from a paper for those readers who do not have access to the original article. However, Archives have been good enough to make my editorial open access, so it is freely available to all. So instead, I'll provide you with four selected passages from the editorial in the hopes of whetting your appetite.

On open data:
"In May 2013, the U.S. federal government mandated that both publications and datasets resulting from research they fund… must be made openly accessible in machine-readable formats."

On abundant data:
"…there is reason to believe that data will become increasingly abundant… The multiple real-time data streams that can be collected by smartphones, wearable devices, and ambient sensors embedded in the environment may soon provide us with access to more data on rehabilitation practice than we are equipped to process, let alone interpret."

On data analysis techniques:
"It seems fundamentally flawed that the resolution of the primary quantitative analysis approaches so widely understood in rehabilitation is so limited by the need to contain the risk of false positives."

In conclusion:
"…academic research appears to be moving in the direction of data openness as the default starting point, and despite competitive pressures this may catalyse innovation and progress."

The issues raised in the paper are not just relevant to researchers—they have implications for clinical settings. I believe these developments will push researchers to be (even more) engaged with real-world rehabilitation provision, and that's positive. I'd warmly encourage you to read the full paper and provide me with both feedback and any leads on taking forward the ideas raised in the paper. You can access it via the formal home for this paper on the web, or jump directly to the pdf copy of the paper.

Babbage, D. R. (2014). Open and abundant data is the future of rehabilitation and research. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 95, 795-798. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2013.12.014