THE FUTURES OF FOOD/NUTRITION DATA AND ANALYSIS
It would be useful to consider alternative futures for food/nutrition data and analysis and on that basis discuss the path going forward.
Some data, such as financial data, are not included in the readily accessible data collections. Some might be accessible only for a high price. In the future, there might be some commodification of global data, meaning some might be made available only for a price. A variety of data management services might be offered, some free, and some for a price. There is a need for debate and control on this. Are there ways to do this so that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs and risks for all who might be affected?
Different users will have their own interests in the raw data and the associated services that might be provided. To illustrate, there is the idea of collecting longitudinal data on individuals, throughout the lifespan. This would make it easier to research the impacts of specific diets on health not only in the short-term but also in the long term. Some people get their health care through the same clinic or hospital for much of their lives, so in that context the creation of these data sets would not be difficult. There are dangers in collecting such data, but there are also potential benefits. The idea deserves discussion.
This work could begin with a survey of existing data sets, comparing them, and searching for minor adjustments that might increase their value. In some cases, this might mean making them more accessible on the Internet, perhaps in a common format.
One possible improvement is suggested by the agenda of the upcoming March 8 event titled “Bringing Children Out from the Shadows: The urgent need to disaggregate and share COVID-19 data for children's well-being” (https://unicef.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_zFe-v8gdT_qf0G84fAm8Sw). It should be disaggregated for many reasons, not just for dealing with the pandemic.
Just as we have Codex Alimentarius to make recommendations relating to food quality, it would be possible to create another global agency that would make recommendations relating to data collection and management on an ongoing basis. The upgrading of the system should be viewed as an endless process. It could be overseen by the new UN Nutrition agency https://www.unnutrition.org/).