Methods This conceptual article describes the origins, purpose and scientific foundations of the DataSHaPER (DataSchema and Harmonization Platform for Epidemiological Research; http://www.datashaper.org), which has been created by a multidisciplinary consortium of experts that was pulled together and coordinated by three international organizations: P(3)G (Public Population Project in Genomics), PHOEBE (Promoting Harmonization of Epidemiological Biobanks in Europe) and CPT (Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project).
Results The DataSHaPER provides a flexible, structured approach to the harmonization and pooling of information between studies. Its two primary components, the 'DataSchema' and 'Harmonization Platforms', together support the preparation of effective data-collection protocols and provide a central reference to facilitate harmonization. The DataSHaPER supports both 'prospective' and 'retrospective' harmonization.
Conclusion It is hoped that this article will encourage readers to investigate the project further: the more the research groups and studies are actively involved, the more effective the DataSHaPER programme will ultimately be.