Q: How can I ask the authors of a published paper about the data for my meta-analysis? (Part 2)

Detailed Question -

I sent a question about meta-analysis earlier. I have some more questions related to the previous question.


When I ask the previous authors about their data (mean value, standard deviation and number of samples) while performing a meta-analysis, how should I inquire and what should I inquire for? To which extent should I explain my study? Please let me know if there is something like a privacy law that prohibits releasing the original data?

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1 Answer to this question

The exact type of data that you need to ask from the authors depends on the specific goal and the context of your study. Broadly speaking, since a meta-analysis pools multiple data sets, you may want to know the details like ‘heterogeneity’ in the results of different studies, length of the confidence interval, weight or precision of a study. Since a detail discussion on this is outside the scope of the current forum, it is advisable that you talk to a statistician to understand what specific details of the data you would need to answer your specific research question.

We acknowledge that the research is a competitive field and there is a difference in opinions or comfort levels among the researchers when it comes to sharing information about their study. However, if you consider your meta-analysis would involve serious collaborative effort, or you need a considerable amount of critical data from other researchers, please share necessary details of your study so that the others can understand why their data is important for your study. This will help you in receiving the desired support from other researchers.

The funding agency or the regulatory body associated with a study or national security law of the relevant country may have policies against sharing and reusing of data from original research. To avoid any chance of facing legal uncertainty and intellectual property right issue, please discuss the transparency in the data sharing process with the researchers while requesting for the raw data.

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