MEIRU has collected data in many studies over the years, some of the main themes are listed below:
- Demography: The Karonga HDSS has been ongoing since 2002 and rich data have been captured on birth, deaths, migration, marriage, socio-economic status (including education), vaccination and anthropometry
- TB: A long-running study of TB across the whole of the Karonga district including both TB patients and matched controls produced data from 1974-2018
- HIV/ART: several population level HIV sero-surveys have been carried out, along with data capture at treatment clinics enabling linkage of HIV/ART data to the HDSS participants
- Chronic disease: a population level survey of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors was carried out both in Karonga and Lilongwe sites from 2012-2016, several follow-up studies have been carried out and further population-wide survey are planned
- Covid-19: in response to the covid-19 pandemic several studies were carried out in both Lilongwe and Karonga
MEIRU data repository
Longitudinal population-based health studies such as those conducted by MEIRU require comprehensive data management systems to ensure that data resources are managed in a secure and reliable manner. The database structures are designed to make research design, data collection, processing and storage efficient. The multitude of data tables in the databases and their inter-relationships present a barrier for researchers with no database systems training or MEIRU studies experience. Identifying the right subsets of data and how to integrate data from various studies in sensible ways is only realistically done by very few staff members with enough experience.
In addition, even after accessing these data, with no accompanying metadata, the content of the data becomes difficult to understand and accurately use with no help from experienced members of staff. The data repository addresses these two issues by providing analysis ready MEIRU datasets and rich metadata to facilitate access and use by researchers. A link to the data repository will be available soon.
MEIRU data access policy
MEIRU recognises the importance of maximising the usefulness of this expensive and publically funded research resource and that not all these data could possibly be fully analysed by the researchers who produced them. However, in addition to the non-negotiable need to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of study participants, these data represent a substantial commitment by MEIRU and the collaborating researchers, study participants and funders involved. Consequently, unregulated access to the MEIRU research resources is not possible.
MEIRU agrees with the UK Medical Research Council’s overarching aim for data-sharing:
“… to maximise the life-time value of research data assets for human health and to do so timely, responsibly, with as few restrictions as possible, in a way consistent with the law, regulation and recognised good practice.”
MEIRU is committed to facilitate informed decision making related to the improvement of the health of Malawians in line with the Malawi National Access to Information Policy. This policy fosters transparency and accountability leading to better citizens’ participation in national development and governance.
A detailed data access policy document that describes the general processes and procedures involved in accessing the MEIRU data is available on request.
Data shared through repositories and collaborative networks
There are currently two key MEIRU datasets that have been shared via established institutional repositories. The Karonga HDSS INDEPTH Core Dataset 2003-2017 on the iSHARE repository and the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit Non-Communicable Disease Survey data,2013-2017 on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Data compass. Details for accessing these data are available at these repositories.
Several other MEIRU data linked to specific publications have also been deposited on LSHTM Data Compass.
Further, MEIRU is a member of several collaborative networks including ALPHA, ANDLA and INSPIRE. MEIRU data on HIV epidemiology have been shared within the ALPHA network, NCD data have been contributed to the ANDLA network and COVID 19 survey data to the INSPIRE network.