An International Rapid-Learning System: Biomedical Research
Several countries are beginning to organize huge, online, research databases including hundreds of millions of electronic health records, with sub-sets of these records to include genomic, protein, environmental, behavioral, and other data for each patient.<1> For example, the US government recently appropriated $19 billion.
The World Academy may be able to play a useful role to network discussions and evolve individual national systems into a new global research system for rapid-learning biomedical research. I suggest that the President designate a Working Group to consult with colleagues and identify useful projects.
Two key steps are: 1.) the decision of national governments to participate; and 2.) "Grand Strategy," designating scientific priorities and including useful benefits for many groups - for example, researchers in academic and corporate settings as well as physicians and patients who want to query the databases to assist with such medical decisions as the improved matching of drugs and patients.
- It would be attractive to design an adaptive global system, open to multi-disciplinary input and that also can be used by advocacy groups. For example, reference databases being developed by the Kaiser system (California) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will include data on the proximity of public parks: there are initial studies that parks encourage exercise and significantly reduce stress; with 50% of humankind now living in urban areas, such data could be useful and informative.
It would be attractive for the global research system for rapid learning to include online analysis software and free computer time for individuals and small companies from all countries.
<1> The national systems also have protocols and standards for individual privacy rights. (The Wikipedia entry for "Electronic Health Records" has references.) The HMO Research Network has developed software for translation and querying across large databases (www.hmoresearchnetwork.org
): Uniform data systems are not necessary for a global database.