Transparency is an important part of ensuring public trust and confidence in the VSD. Considering that the VSD data sharing program demands could increase in the future, releasing information to the public on the use of the program (such as number and types of proposals submitted, disposition of each proposal, and timelines of notifications to researchers) could promote transparency and help to foster public trust. If the public is confident that there is a transparent, standardized process for documenting the status of proposals and that information about use of the VSD data sharing program is made known on a regular schedule, there may be less concern and suspicion about the processes that the NIP and NCHS use to implement the data sharing program.
Recommendation 4.5: The committee recommends that the NIP and NCHS release publicly the procedures that will be used for recordkeeping of VSD data sharing program documents and update the status of the program regularly.
Such information could be made available electronically (for example, on the NIP or NCHS Web site) to balance the public’s need for information with the administrative burden on NIP and NCHS staff. The NIP Web site may be an effective place to provide such information, especially considering that the site recently has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a vaccine safety Web site that meets essential information practices criteria (WHO, 2005).
Peer review of completed manuscripts is an important component of the scientific process. Regardless of the type of researcher, the data being used, or the sponsor of the research, all research findings should go through peer review before being considered scientifically valid. Whereas external peer-review processes are normally used before findings are released in a peer-reviewed journal, solely internal peer-review processes may be used when questions arise about the advisability of releasing preliminary findings. Independent external peer-review processes offer the greatest confidence in the accuracy and validity of study findings. When external peer review is not possible (for example, in the case of release of preliminary findings with an urgent public health impact or through a mechanism other than a peer-reviewed journal), all findings that will be released should at least go through an extensive internal peer-review process.