A novel decentralized federated learning approach to train on globally distributed, poor quality, and protected private medical data

Publication Name

Scientific Reports


Training on multiple diverse data sources is critical to ensure unbiased and generalizable AI. In healthcare, data privacy laws prohibit data from being moved outside the country of origin, preventing global medical datasets being centralized for AI training. Data-centric, cross-silo federated learning represents a pathway forward for training on distributed medical datasets. Existing approaches typically require updates to a training model to be transferred to a central server, potentially breaching data privacy laws unless the updates are sufficiently disguised or abstracted to prevent reconstruction of the dataset. Here we present a completely decentralized federated learning approach, using knowledge distillation, ensuring data privacy and protection. Each node operates independently without needing to access external data. AI accuracy using this approach is found to be comparable to centralized training, and when nodes comprise poor-quality data, which is common in healthcare, AI accuracy can exceed the performance of traditional centralized training.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number




Link to publisher version (DOI)