The National E-infrastructure for Aging Research (NEAR)
Every year, the Great Gerontology Prize is awarded by the Swedish Gerontological Association, and recently it was announced that the recipient of the 2023 Great Gerontology Prize is NEAR Director Laura Fratiglioni.
In the beginning of November, NEAR attended the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Several NEAR representatives were present and held a symposium to present the infrastructure as well as research results from ongoing NEAR projects.
On 18-19 October, 60 persons from 12 different universities gathered at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm for NEAR’s annual workshop. Focus for this year’s workshop was collaboration with other infrastructures.
The National E-Infrastructure for Aging Research (NEAR) is a unique research infrastructure that was founded in 2018. It is a collaboration between eight universities including Karolinska Institutet, University of Gothenburg, Lund University, Umeå University, Jönköping University, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Uppsala University and Stockholm 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. NEAR includes datasets with medical, psychological, and social data covering social gerontology, public health, biomedicine, neuroscience, and care sciences. The availability of these diverse data in such a large population makes NEAR unique.
Our scientific production from the first three years shows that NEAR will be increasingly used by national and international researchers with high scientific profile as the infrastructure provides unique information for aging research and policy development.
NEAR includes 15 databases covering older populations from almost all parts of Sweden. The large sample size provides nationally representative health-related data that allows tracing of societal changes, time trends and generational differences in older adults’ health.
The long-term plan of NEAR includes continuous expansion by adding new data, new databases, linking with registers and interaction with related international infrastructures.
We have developed a detailed policy regarding accessibility, rules and procedures for using NEAR data for academic and non-academic users. We found solutions to guarantee open access to all users, while taking the ethical and legal aspects of sensitive personal data into account.