Nature, the Lancet and many other medical publishers and researchers have announced that all Zika-related scientific articles will be published freely in the wake of the recent outbreak.
“We announce that Nature journals will make all papers relating to Zika virus free to access until further notice,” a statement reads. “Nature journals will also now encourage authors who haven’t already deposited their relevant sequence information in public archives to do so on submission to help drive the shift towards fast data sharing during public-health emergencies.”
The seemingly benign Zika virus that seemed to only cause mild symptoms turned out to be not so benign after all. Thousands of pregnant women infected with the virus gave birth to babies suffering from drastic abnormalities, especially microcephaly – a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. The outbreak has reached pandemic levels in South America and threatens to spread more and further.
The thing is, we don’t know why or how Zika causes these conditions, nor any other potential effects; there is also no vaccine.
In order to hasten the process of developing methods of prevention and treatment, facilitating research is paramount, but unfortunately, scientific information is not always free. Access to journals can be really expensive, especially when you only want to access to a few very specific articles. In the face of crisis (at the very least), this information should flow freely.
“The arguments for sharing data, and the consequences of not doing so, have been thrown into stark relief by the Ebola and Zika outbreaks,” the statement continues.
“In the context of a public health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis.”
The signatories will make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access (print and online) and encourage publishers to share any significant results as soon as possible.
Signatories to the Statement:
Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
South African Medical Research Council
UK Medical Research Council
ZonMw – The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development