Excavating FAIR Data: the Case of the Multicenter Animal Spinal Cord Injury Study (MASCIS), Blood Pressure, and Neuro-Recovery

Carlos A. Almeida, Abel Torres-Espin, J. Russell Huie, Dongming Sun, Linda J. Noble-Haeusslein, Wise Young, Michael S. Beattie, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, Jessica L. Nielson, Adam R. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Meta-analyses suggest that the published literature represents only a small minority of the total data collected in biomedical research, with most becoming ‘dark data’ unreported in the literature. Dark data is due to publication bias toward novel results that confirm investigator hypotheses and omission of data that do not. Publication bias contributes to scientific irreproducibility and failures in bench-to-bedside translation. Sharing dark data by making it Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) may reduce the burden of irreproducible science by increasing transparency and support data-driven discoveries beyond the lifecycle of the original study. We illustrate feasibility of dark data sharing by recovering original raw data from the Multicenter Animal Spinal Cord Injury Study (MASCIS), an NIH-funded multi-site preclinical drug trial conducted in the 1990s that tested efficacy of several therapies after a spinal cord injury (SCI). The original drug treatments did not produce clear positive results and MASCIS data were stored in boxes for more than two decades. The goal of the present study was to independently confirm published machine learning findings that perioperative blood pressure is a major predictor of SCI neuromotor outcome (Nielson et al., 2015). We recovered, digitized, and curated the data from 1125 rats from MASCIS. Analyses indicated that high perioperative blood pressure at the time of SCI is associated with poorer health and worse neuromotor outcomes in more severe SCI, whereas low perioperative blood pressure is associated with poorer health and worse neuromotor outcome in moderate SCI. These findings confirm and expand prior results that a narrow window of blood-pressure control optimizes outcome, and demonstrate the value of recovering dark data for assessing reproducibility of findings with implications for precision therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2 2021
StatePublished - Mar 2 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Autonomic
  • Data science
  • Hemodynamics
  • Metascience
  • Motor recovery
  • Neurotrauma
  • Reproducibility
  • Spinal contusion


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