Harlots Parlour

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Sharing research data: a great day for decriminalisation

Today, data collected by public health researchers now has to be shared. The institutions who fund most of the research work in public health  have signed an agreement to force scientists to put their data out into the shared public domain. Most of the funding for health research in the developing countries is funded by the signatory organisations. These include The U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Other signatories include the World Bank, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, national research councils from the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Is this good news, I believe so. It means that scientists analysing harm reduction strategies for sex work can get to the raw data.  I hope  anti sex work researches like Mellisa Farley will have to give up their research data when funded by one of these organisations. Unfortunately private organisations funding research outside of the signatories could still continue to Hug their Data and not give it up for public scrutiny.  I would hope that as more research data becomes open to others to use and review, that this will force openness on the rest of the organisations.  Where openness is not shown, then their data could be considered inferior.

Will this be welcomed by researchers, As Elizabeth Pisani who has helped write the draft for this accord says.

Some researchers will feel queasy about sharing their data; it is hard not to feel ownership when, night after night after exhausting night, you’ve driven your motorbike at 4.30 am through the entrails of the red light district in the rainy season to get them to the lab in good order.

If you read Elizabelths book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS, you will empathise with that statement as she is stopped by the police leaving a red-light district with lots of used syringes, blood samples and no money to pay a bribe.  The book was available as a free down load in December 2010 and I took advantage of the offer to read a very stimulating book.  Written in a way so that a layperson like I could easily assimilate.

Lets see how this change works in practice, openness is to be welcomed.  Will it help setting realistic strategies for HIV prevention and ultimately saving lives of sex workers.   Lets hope so.  Will it allow analysis and total debunking of the statement that 90% if sex workers want to leave sex work.  Maybe, but once an invalid statment from some research has got into the press and internet, it takes a long time to slay that beast.  A quote from Elizabeth about how an erro got into their research.

I’d like to put coding errors in the honesty box, but in fact they rarely get discovered. We found the prisoner–prostitute switch only because the results were so shocking. Even when coding mistakes are discovered, they can be hard to exorcise. In this case, the error was easily fixed in the national database, but it had already burrowed its way onto the internet and into the public record internationally. The ghosts of the 18 per cent of sex workers supposedly infected with HIV in Jakarta in 2001 have haunted the Indonesian AIDS programme ever since, raising the spectre of a heterosexual epidemic and channelling money away from drug injectors, where it is most needed.

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