Providing open access data online to advance malaria research and control

Malar J. 2013 May 16;12:161. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-12-161.


Background: To advance research on malaria, the outputs from existing studies and the data that fed into them need to be made freely available. This will ensure new studies can build on the work that has gone before. These data and results also need to be made available to groups who are developing public health policies based on up-to-date evidence. The Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) has collated and geopositioned over 50,000 parasite prevalence and vector occurrence survey records contributed by over 3,000 sources including research groups, government agencies and non-governmental organizations worldwide. This paper describes the results of a project set up to release data gathered, used and generated by MAP.

Methods: Requests for permission to release data online were sent to 236 groups who had contributed unpublished prevalence (parasite rate) surveys. An online explorer tool was developed so that users can visualize the spatial distribution of the vector and parasite survey data before downloading it. In addition, a consultation group was convened to provide advice on the mode and format of release for data generated by MAP's modelling work. New software was developed to produce a suite of publication-quality map images for download from the internet for use in external publications.

Conclusion: More than 40,000 survey records can now be visualized on a set of dynamic maps and downloaded from the MAP website on a free and unrestricted basis. As new data are added and new permissions to release existing data come in, the volume of data available for download will increase. The modelled data output from MAP's own analyses are also available online in a range of formats, including image files and GIS surface data, for use in advocacy, education, further research and to help parameterize or validate other mathematical models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet*
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control*