Data are the foundation of biosurveillance. The range of data that are potentially useful in biosurveillance is broad and continues to expand as information technology enables more detailed and timely collection of information about individuals, populations, and the environment. There are well-developed methods for studying the informational value of surveillance data. The methods can be applied to data that are collected for both the purpose of detecting cases, as well as data that are collected for the purpose of detecting or characterizing outbreaks. For those data that have value, eval-uators should assess the availability of data, and the cost and effort to obtain the data, so that the decision makers can judge whether to incorporate the data into a biosurveillance scheme.

There are additional aspects of data, such as data quality and sampling biases, which we discuss in Chapter 37. Data quality and sampling bias influence the informational value of data, but the methods that we discuss in this chapter by and large measure the overall value of data, which includes these effects.

The research discussed in the next chapters is representative of the research that should be conducted to search for new types of data that can contribute to the goal of improving biosurveillance.

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