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Pandemic Disruptor: Canadian Perspectives on how COVID-19 is Changing Open Access

Part I in a series

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Leigh-Ann Butler, Shannon Cobb and Michael Donaldson. Butler is a policy analyst at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Cobb is a science policy advisor at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and was formerly a policy analyst with NSERC. Donaldson is an open access specialist with Canadian Science Publishing and an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology at Carleton University.

COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly the research ecosystem can come together to respond and share research results on a global scale. Since the current system is not open by default, stakeholders in publishing, academia (including libraries and administration), and research funding have had to reactively change their policies to enable rapid access to, and dissemination of, scientific information and research results to respond to the current pandemic.

COVID-19 is not the first global health crisis to demonstrate the critical role open access plays in disease response, containment and prevention. In 2015, a group of scientists working on the Ebola pandemic published a letter attributing the slow response to detecting the disease to a closed and inequitable research system. The authors highlighted how a pay-walled 1982 article hid crucial findings of the existence of Ebola antibodies within the Liberian community, proving it was not “a new phenomenon” as once thought. (Editor’s Note: the nuances of this complex situation were discussed in several Scholarly Kitchen posts, including “Discovery and Access in Light of the Ebola Outbreak” and “Access Alone Isn’t Enough: Revisiting Calls for Discovery, Infrastructure, Technology, and Training“). The COVID-19 pandemic and associated calls for immediate open access demonstrate that paywall barriers remained in place despite past lessons, preventing access to critical information.

Please select this link to read the complete article from The Scholarly Kitchen.

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