The sharing of animal disease data should be encouraged. The analysis of such data will broaden our knowledge of animal diseases and potentially provide insights into their management. However, the need to conform to data protection rules in the sharing of such data for analysis purposes often poses practical difficulties.
This paper sets out the challenges and the methods used for the data sharing of Animal Health data in England, Scotland, and Wales – Great Britain (GB) using bovine tuberculosis (bTB) data as a case study. The data sharing described is undertaken by the Animal and Plant Health Agency on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh and Scottish Governments. It should be noted that Animal Health Data are held at the level of GB (rather than the United Kingdom – which includes Northern Ireland) as Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has its own separate data systems.
Bovine tuberculosis is the most significant and costly animal health problem facing cattle farmers in England and Wales. It can be devastating for farmers and farming communities and the control costs for taxpayers in GB are over £150m a year.
We describe two methods of data sharing – first, where data are requested and delivered to an academic institution for epidemiological or scientific analysis, and second, where data are proactively published in an accessible and meaningful way. As an example of the second method, we describe the free-to-access website (https://ibtb.co.uk) where bTB data are published for the benefit of the farming community and veterinary health professionals.