Exclusive Commentary: Publishers vs. Ebola?

How could Open Access (OA) publishing possibly help fight the Ebola epidemic afflicting some of West Africa’s poorest nations?

The Answer: In several ways. OA allows authors to disseminate their research for free around the world whilst maintaining the copyright to reproduce their work.  This enables the flow of cutting edge research to transcend both pay and national boundaries as life-saving research and flow of knowledge can be shared freely allowing the knowledge pool to develop faster than ever.

For scientists and medical researchers in lower income countries, lack of access to research in costly subscription-based journals is a major impediment to their work.

So you might ask, can’t subscription journals provide the same service and secondly, what is the connection with this Ebola outbreak? Where is the existing research on Ebola being published?

A quick search in PubMed Central using the search term “Ebola [OR] current Ebola outbreak [OR] Ebola “ and limited to publications over the last year in both Open Access journals and non-OA journals reveals interesting information. Open access publications take the lead with 334 published articles fitting this search criteria whereas only 287 non-OA articles were published.

If Science is Open to All, Why Not Scientific Articles?” says K.Venkat Raghavan. And “Knowledge should be an open door” states Savithri Rangarajan. Both researchers responded to BioMed Central’s campaign on I Open Access, which asked participants to summarize what OA means to them.

A powerful platform to freely share critical and timely research around the world, OA publishing is playing an especially valuable role helping those contributing to the fight against Ebola.

—Alexa Chamay Berrier, PDip, BA, is Journal Development Editor at BioMed Central in London.