Combatting the next outbreak: why open access matters

Sarah Sabir

As the Open Pharma position statement reaches over 100 endorsements, we share why open access is important for public health and hear why publishing house Frontiers has endorsed the position statement.

With an estimated two-thirds of all research trapped behind paywalls, The Guardian discusses the impact that this has on public health. Free access to key papers warning about Ebola back in 1982 would have better prepared healthcare professionals and researchers for the Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2016, thus potentially saving thousands of lives, as reported in an open letter by health researchers in Liberia. Fast forward to the present day, the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus has prompted researchers, journals and funders to ensure that all medical findings are shared rapidly and are accessible to everyone in a bid to prevent further spread of the disease and to improve patient care. This includes making all peer-reviewed research immediately open access and sharing relevant findings on preprint servers or platforms. But should we be waiting for the next outbreak to make these changes or should we start adopting open access policies now to combat current and future health risks?

The Open Pharma position statement on open access calls for all peer-reviewed research to be made freely available to anyone who needs it anywhere in the world. Since its launch in October 2019, it has gained widespread coverage from The Telegraph, Taylor & Francis, F1000Research (now part of the Taylor & Francis group), Future Science Group, ecancer, the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals and many more. It has received global endorsements from academics, pharma, publishers, agencies, patient advocates and patients. Now nearly four months on, the position statement has received over 100 individual, company and publisher endorsements in total!

In a recent coverage, gold open access publisher and Open Pharma position statement endorser Frontiers states that open science is the best way to leverage the results of research to help foster innovation and to benefit all. Data collected by Frontiers show that pharma-funded articles published open access in one of Frontiers’ 70 journals has a citation impact four times greater than that of other articles in the same field. With Frontiers being the fifth most-cited scholarly publisher in the world, it is clear to see that publishing open access generates more impact and reach within the scientific community. The proportion of pharma-funded open access papers has almost doubled between 2009 and 2016. However, to continue to push scientific boundaries and to generate an informed society through access to high-quality peer-reviewed publications, there is still more work to be done with publishers to allow authors of company-funded research outputs the same rights to publish open access as authors whose research is funded from other funding sources.

If you agree with our mission, you can read and endorse the Open Pharma position statement here.