The National E-infrastructure for Aging Research (NEAR) coordinates the existing databases from major population-based longitudinal studies on aging and health in Sweden.
The National E-Infrastructure on Aging Research (NEAR) is a unique research project that was founded in 2017. It is a collaboration between seven universities including Karolinska Institutet, University of Gothenburg, Lund University, Umeå University, Jönköping University, Blekinge Institute of Technology and Uppsala University. The Director of NEAR is Senior Professor Laura Fratiglioni, MD, PhD.
The aims of NEAR are:
The ultimate goal is to identify sustainable intervention strategies for better health and develop more effective care of the older population.
NEAR fulfills the six criteria established by the Swedish Research Council (VR) to define an infrastructure of national interest:
Sweden has one of the oldest populations in the world. The dramatic demographic changes underscore the urgent need to investigate in aging research with the major goal of identifying intervention strategies for longer and healthier lives. NEAR focus solely on aging and health, thus contributing to achieving this goal.
A broad multidisciplinary perspective is needed to achieve outstanding research in aging. By harmonizing extensive datasets, NEAR will include information on social gerontology, public health, biomedicine, and care science. The databases included in NEAR have been collected by trained nurses, psychologists, physicians, and interviewers. The availability of biomedical, psychological, and social data in such a large older population makes NEAR unique and original.
On the basis of our current experience from the individual databases, we expect NEAR to be used by national and international researchers, health care professionals, government agencies, industrial sector, and international organizations, as the infrastructure can provide unique information for aging research and policy development.
NEAR will include 15 databases covering older populations from almost all parts of Sweden. The main advantages of a national infrastructure include the large sample size, which makes it possible to carry out subgroup analyses necessary to address diversity in aging and health across various groups, and provide representativeness of the national population.
Our plans include both short- and long-term perspectives. By 2017, the design of NEAR will be ready for VR’s further funding for implementation and use. The long-term plan of NEAR includes continuous expansion by collecting new data in the individual databases, inclusion of other databases, and interaction with related international infrastructures. Finally, the prolonged follow-up and inclusion of new birth cohorts will make it possible to trace societal changes, time trends, and generational differences in health conditions.
It is our policy and in our interest to make NEAR available to researchers and other users once the infrastructure is established. Policy regarding accessibility, rules, procedures for using the infrastructure, and presentation of results will be developed during the 2-year coordination phase. Since NEAR contains sensitive personal data, our aim is to find solutions to guarantee an open access policy for all users, while simultaneously taking the ethical and legal aspects of sensitive personal data into account.