Scientists Say It’s Time To End ‘Parachute Research’

Monday, April 4, 2016

Critics call them “parachute researchers”: Scientists from wealthy nations who swoop in when a puzzling disease breaks out in a developing country. They collect specimens, then head straight back home to analyze them. They don’t coordinate with people fighting the epidemic on the ground — don’t even share their discoveries for months, if ever.

Sometimes it’s because they want to publish their results – and medical journals prefer exclusives. And sometimes it’s because they can make a lot of money by coming up with copyrighted treatments for the disease.

Now there’s concern that parachute research could make it harder to stop the Zika outbreak. In response scientists and global health officials have launched an unprecedented worldwide effort to curb the practice.

Step one, they say, is to recognize that parachute research is a chronic problem. Take the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Early on a team of scientists was able to sequence the genetic code of virus samples. They immediately made the information public. And the sequences gave a useful picture of how and why Ebola was spreading. But after that, “there was radio silence,” says as one of the scientists, Nathan Yozwiak of the Broad Institute and Harvard University. “There were many months in which no new Ebola sequences came out.”

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, research