Nobel-Worthy Open Access Research

What do John Gurdon, Shinya Yamanaka, Brian Kobilka and Serge Haroche have in common? Yes, they are all winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize, but besides that? All of these Nobel laureates have also chosen to publish their research in open access. While this award acknowledges the achievements of decades of dedicated research, open access should be achievable with a somewhat less monumental effort – if a wide range of voices participates in a thoughtful revolution of scientific publication. Read on to learn more about this open access Nobel science, and how you can get involved in the change.

What do John Gurdon, Shinya Yamanaka, Brian Kobilka and Serge Haroche have in common? Yes, they are all winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize, but besides that? All of these Nobel laureates have also chosen to publish their research in open access. While this award acknowledges the achievements of decades of dedicated research, open access should be achievable with a somewhat less monumental effort – if a wide range of voices participates in a thoughtful revolution of scientific publication. Read on to learn more about this open access Nobel science, and how you can get involved in the change.

 

French physicist and 2012 Nobel Prize winner Serge Haroche is no stranger to Open Access. He has long shared his research via the open access pre-print repository, arXiv, that his field had the wisdom to create. The physics community boasts a well-established practice of opening up its data to facilitate and accelerate the research of all. But, as some of this year’s other Nobel laureates prove, biology and chemistry are not bereft of an open access reflex, either. Tomorrow night in Paris, you’ll get the chance to strengthen yours.

Open research, better treatments

John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their contributions to stem cell science. The two were recognized for their work showing that “mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”, that is, to have the potential to become any type of cell in the body, just as embryonic stem cells do.

Sir John Gurdon, 2012 Nobel Prize winner and open access author (Creative Commons Attr. 2.0 generic license)
 John Gurdon

In 1962, Dr. Gurdon, of the Gurdon Institute (Cambridge, UK), was the first to successfully clone an animal—a frog—by transferring the nucleus of a mature cell into an egg whose own nucleus had been removed. The fact that a healthy tadpole was born of this transfer showed that the adult nucleus still contained all the instructions necessary for development.

In an article published last year in PLOS Biology, Gurdon took the understanding of this process further, showing that, due to small differences in the genome, the cell nucleus of one species is unable to drive development of the egg of a distantly related species. Although all of the mechanisms are not yet clear, this study helped clarify the role of different elements in development.

Gurdon’s fellow Nobel Laureate, Shinya Yamanaka, of Kyoto University and the Gladstone Institutes (San Francisco, USA), allowed the field to move closer to human therapeutic applications. In 2006, he discovered that, by adding the genes for just four transcription factors to adult mouse skin cells, he could return the cells to their pluripotent, embryonic state. He went on to do the same with human skin cells, providing a possible method to benefit from all the therapeutic potential of stem cells—in regenerative medicine, for example, to rebuild damaged organs—without the ethical problems associated with embryonic cells.

Over the last three years, Dr. Yamanaka has published his work in open access journal PLOS ONE nine times. According to the publisher, his influential paper presenting this method of reprogramming adult cells, with its great potential for clinical applications, has been viewed over 16,000 times. Thousands and thousands of opportunities for this important information to be shared.

2012’s winners in the Medicine or Physiology category were not the only ones to share their findings freely with the research community and the world. Brian Kobilka of the Stanford University School of Medicine, one of this year’s laureates in Chemistry, also published in PLOS ONE, a mere week before the announcement of his award. His work focuses on G-protein-coupled receptors – the “sensors” in the membranes of our cells that mediate most of our responses to hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as sight, smell and taste. Understanding, in greater and greater detail, how these receptors function structurally will allow for better drug design. Transmitting that information, Brian Kobilka must have understood, to as many minds as possible can only speed up and enhance that process.

Tomorrow night in Paris: the Open Access revolution needs your voice!

Should it be any surprise that Nobel-level scientists see value in associating themselves with Open Access publishing? Hardly. Especially given that one of the three founders of the groundbreaking PLOS, Harold Varmus, is himself one: Varmus shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. There are still kinks in the system that need to be worked out, but to do so should not take a Nobel-worthy effort. What it will require is thoughtful examination of research funding and the possible economic models for Open Access, as well as discussion among as many players as possible concerned with the sharing of research results.

You can be part of this discussion, tomorrow night at UNESCO, as part of International Open Access Week. MyScienceWork invites you to participate in this event by learning about the impact of Open Access publishing from invited speakers, all leaders in the movement and staying for a glass of wine and friendly discussion at the end.

All information can be found on the Paris Open Access Week site: http://www.openaccessweek-mysciencework.com/#!home/cpa7

Paris Open Access Week 2012

Find out more:

Two PLOS Authors Awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2012/10/08/two-plos-authors-awarded-nobel-prize-in-medicine/

Gladstone Scientist Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine – Shinya Yamanaka http://gladstoneinstitutes.org/pressrelease/2012-10-08/gladstone-scientist-wins-nobel-prize-in-medicine

Interview with Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir John Gurdon http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/video-and-audio/interview-with-nobel-prize-winner-professor-sir-john-gurdon/

Fact sheet on work by Nobel laureate in chemistry Brian Kobilka http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/october/nobel-kobilka-facts-101012.html

Biography of Serge Haroche, Collège de France http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/en-serge-haroche/biography.htm#|p=../en-serge-haroche/biography.htm|