Apple today announced a new framework called ResearchKit. Built in collaboration with more than a dozen leading medical institutions and foundations including Stanford Medicine, Oxford University, Massachusetts Hospital and the American Heart Foundation, the stated goal of ResearchKit is to make it easy for health and medical researchers to gather data on a scale never before possible, whilst upholding established best practice in ethics and informed consent. Critically, Apple has announced that this framework will be open source, meaning that it can potentially be applied well beyond the Apple platform and device ecosystem.

At the time of launch, Apple had worked with medical research institutions to produce mobile applications designed to support research programs in diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. In the first six hours of availability, researchers at the University of Rochester received more than 7000 individual volunteers for a Parkinson’s disease study that had previously never obtained a sample larger than 1700.

“This framework is very new, and many questions remain,” said James White, who will be examining ResearchKit closely for potential integration into future research projects. “What exactly is ResearchKit, and what will it enable researchers to do? Who will be able to conduct research using this framework? What are the potential population biases and other methodological issues? And perhaps most importantly, what privacy, confidentiality and informed consent safeguards are in place?”

More will be revealed about ResearchKit over the coming weeks and months. Expect to see a lot more about this highly promising development.