We must keep up the Fast Dissemination of Quality Science after the Coronavirus Crisis

24 March 2021
We must keep up the Fast Dissemination of Quality Science after the Coronavirus Crisis

By embracing open science, publishers and funders in the pharmaceutical industry ensure that crucial, life-saving evidence goes where it’s needed most

The accelerating shift towards open science has truly proved its worth during the coronavirus pandemic. New platforms, workflows, and fast-track systems have changed the publishing landscape practically overnight, in response to the need to get new findings on possible treatments and prevention of the disease out as quickly as possible.

Now the most important scientific papers on the topic can be read by anyone online and many data sets behind studies and trials have been made freely available. It has become apparent to all that the rapid dissemination of science is not just a nice ideal, but critical when trying to save lives in an ongoing medical emergency.

However, not all science is equal, and this complicates matters when tough decisions must be made regarding how to spend dwindling public resources. With so much content available, health care practitioners (HCPs), who are already under unimaginable pressure, are swamped with information of varying quality.

It’s therefore vital that publishers and funders of pharmaceutical research take seriously our responsibility to guide HCPs to the solutions that will secure the best patient outcomes. Publishers such as Wiley, with our expertise in rigorous peer review and optimized ways of reaching HCP audiences, should keep working with funders to ensure that the newest and best evidence reaches the right people at the right time. As we have seen this past year, it can save lives.

To ensure that the right people have access to this vital research, routes to publishing open science need to become as available to authors and funders of medical research as they are in other disciplines. Authors can then make their decision based on the need to communicate the findings beyond one’s own small scientific community of colleagues.

However, if patients are to benefit, the community as a whole must start thinking of publication as being about reach. How many people, beyond one’s own small scientific community of colleagues, are reading and engaging with the work? How many scientific advisors, how many public policy officers, how many HCPs? Reach is the ultimate goal of dissemination and it’s a core principle of open science.

Transfer networks are just one way in which publishers can encourage researchers to publish open access. If an author’s paper is deemed unsuitable for their first-choice journal, a transfer network allows them to automatically transfer their paper to another journal within the network, along with any peer review reports. Many open access titles participate in these kinds of networks, allowing an author to publish as quickly as possible and gaining maximum reach.

But we must also be ready to take more radical action. The coronavirus crisis has proved that fast-track systems can be successfully put in place at almost every stage, from funding and ethics approval to peer review and publication. We have shown that when the will is there, we can achieve extraordinary things.

As vaccination programs begin to roll out, hopefully we’ll soon have turned a corner in the pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be the last health crisis we face in our increasingly interconnected world. Now that we have shown what we can accomplish as a scientific community, we must keep the momentum going.

By embracing streamlined publishing and open science, we can keep driving improvements in patient outcomes. That has always been, and will always be, our end goal.

Image of the author Martine Docking

Martine Docking
VP, Global Corporate Sales, Wiley