The international sharing of virus data is critical for protecting populations against lethal infectious disease outbreaks. Scientists must rapidly share information to assess the nature of the threat and develop new medical countermeasures. Governments need the data to trace the extent of the outbreak, initiate public health responses, and coordinate access to medicines and vaccines. Recent outbreaks suggest, however, that the sharing of such data cannot be taken for granted - making the timely international exchange of virus data a vital global challenge. This article undertakes the first analysis of the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data as an innovative policy effort to promote the international sharing of genetic and associated influenza virus data. Based on more than 20 semi-structured interviews conducted with key informants in the international community, coupled with analysis of a wide range of primary and secondary sources, the article finds that the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data contributes to global health in at least five ways: (1) collating the most complete repository of high-quality influenza data in the world; (2) facilitating the rapid sharing of potentially pandemic virus information during recent outbreaks; (3) supporting the World Health Organization's biannual seasonal flu vaccine strain selection process; (4) developing informal mechanisms for conflict resolution around the sharing of virus data; and (5) building greater trust with several countries key to global pandemic preparedness.
Keywords: GISAID; data‐sharing; global health; influenza; pandemic preparedness; public‐private partnerships; virus.
©2017 The Authors. Global Challenges published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.