CAUL and AOASG welcome moves by commercial publishers to open up their content at this critical time. The rapid development of tests, potential treatments and vaccines to clinical trials has been made possible by the frictionless and immediate sharing of new and early stage research and data by researchers and access to previously paywalled content being provided by publishers.
The speed with which many publishers have enabled open access to COVID-19 related content is commendable, and some have also taken the significant step of relaxing access restrictions to content more generally.
It also demonstrates that open access to research should be the new norm. The time has come to make free and open access to all research a reality. It is critical that once the pandemic is over, in order to accelerate the global transition to free and open access, publishers do not once again restrict access to COVID-19 content. This will be especially crucial in light of the economic challenges all sectors of society will be facing, including universities dealing with constrained scholarly content budgets.
Therefore, we urge publishers to make a commitment to:
- Ongoing open access to COVID-19 related research publications and data – the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic, the 2010-11 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand and the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic has shown that access to this critical research has not been long term. There exists now an opportunity for this to change for the better.
- Seamless open access to scholarly content – the most effective way to do this is to make content openly available at the publisher’s site. However, the current requirement for many libraries to negotiate access on a case by case basis is adding unnecessary logistical and administrative burdens.
It is crucial that the advances gained from sharing of information at this difficult time are not lost once the emergency is over. An open scholarly publishing environment that ensures FAIR and seamless sharing, access and use of research and data will put humanity in the strongest possible position to face future global challenges.