DOHA—As the world struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Unesco called for open access to scientific information to facilitate research and information exchange on Covid-19.
The international scientific community was quick to respond. Several organizations started sharing their research openly and major scientific journals dropped subscription fees for articles related to Covid-19, making them available to all.
“If we can do this for Covid-19, which is a grand challenge, what about other challenges like respiratory disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease?” asked Stephan Kuster, head of institutional relations at Frontiers Media, a Switzerland-based publisher of peer-reviewed open-access scientific journals. “We want to make all science open in all fields.”
Kuster was among the speakers at a virtual discussion hosted by Qatar National Library on October 22 in Doha.
While almost 100 percent of research articles published about the novel coronavirus is available on an open-access basis, he said, only about 30 percent of research articles about cancer, 26 percent of articles about cardiovascular disease and 21 percent of articles about respiratory disease have open access.
The discussion on the pandemic’s impact on libraries, scholarly publishers and research institutions, was part of Qatar National Library’s celebration of the International Open Access Week, held annually in late October.
Making Research Papers Free to All
In its simplest definition, open access means making intellectual property available free on the Internet. Instead of publishing research data and articles behind subscription-only paywalls, governments, universities or the scholars themselves pay to have their research published, and it’s free to all readers after that.
Supporters of open access in research say this model would ensure rapid circulation of scientific information and enrich the dialogue between researchers, thus contributing to scientific development. (See related article “Research Results Are Increasingly Available for Free.”)
The concept has been gaining ground in the Arab world, but progress is still slow.