The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into light the urgent need for the global research community and the general public alike to have unrestricted access to scientific articles, i.e. to information at the source, that is to say information written by the researchers themselves. Researchers' discoveries concern the world at large and this crisis proves this now more than ever before.
The transition we are currently experiencing ought to lead us to a new world, one that is more collaborative and with a greater sense of responsibility and purpose within and beyond our organisations. The crisis we are experiencing is already bringing about big changes: Apple is going to make masks, the BPI is proposing exceptional measures to companies, and solidarity chains are being set up. So when will major publishers like Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc, release all their scientific articles and finally devote themselves to other business models?
In 2019, 49% of French scientific publications were subjected to Open Access leaving 51% still unaccounted for and thus inaccessible.
Just last week, I was conducting a study on the evolution of the number of women in science. I clicked on the article 'Does Gender Bias Still Affect Women In Science? and found myself in front of a page asking me to pay $25 to access the text. Isn't it time to stand up and change things? Millions of scientific discoveries are being blocked by publishers who have set up an aberrant system of double payment since universities or individuals need to buy articles written by researchers who are themselves paid by the universities and therefore the state!
Admittedly, publishers have been working on Open Access for the last ten years and they continue to make efforts, but it is still not enough.
In particular, towards the end of March, Springer Nature made the work on Covid-19 open access and Elsevier too facilitated access to their resources, (temporarily so). At the moment it is an absolute priority that everyone has access to the latest articles by virologists, geneticists, epidemiologists and biostatisticians on Covid-19. This pandemic context also requires specific needs such as the need to publish much faster and therefore take more risks regarding quality. The Open Access platforms respond much better to this new need. Pre-print platforms such as MedRXiv and BioRXiv are exploding in terms of submissions of new articles. It is thanks to the MedRXiv website that the highly publicized study on the relationship between blood group and Covid-19 was recently published.
Science has never been in more need of sharing, commenting and collaboration. In this context, the knowledge released in Covid-19 related articles alone is not enough. The Covid-19 pandemic is linked to environmental issues, the study of other viruses, risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, pollution etc. In order for all researchers, journalists and citizens to study in depth the causes, genesis, extension and results of a potential treatment, vaccine against Covid-19 etc, it is necessary to read articles related to other disciplines. So how to proceed?
To sum up and more globally, why is it that half of the knowledge in medicine, biology, environment, physics, mathematics, psychology, chemistry, etc. is still blocked? Isn't it also critical to liberate researchers' discoveries on other diseases such as cancer, cardio-vascular diseases, the specific toxicity of certain drugs, the impact of pollution, etc? Perhaps these problems are less important than Covid-19 in the eyes of publishers?
For 10 years I have been advocating for Open Access, Open Science and Open Innovation. Science is still locked. It's high time to unlock it.
This time 100%, for the long haul.