Tuesday, 14 September 2010

An ethical issue for research authors

Here is a powerful comment on the recent announcement by a number of publishers to make their publications free for a limited period to readers in areas suffering from natural disasters. Dr Neil Pakenham Walsh (co-Director of the Global Health Information Network and the respected coordinator of the Health Information for All Network – HIFA2015) welcomes the move, but also queries the ethical reasons for restricting access to essential information. He refers to health information, but the argument can be extended to research publications and data necessary for overcoming all global problems – in climate change, agriculture, clean energy developments and so on.

This is not the problem of publishers who have a right to run their businesses on a fair commercial basis, but it is the problem of researchers themselves - those that without financial reward provide the information for the publishers. Authors should recognise that they have an ethical as well as a self-advancing reason for making their research knowledge available free to all. They should ask themselves whether their research findings are important to other researchers around the world for the advancement of science. If the answer is ‘Yes’, they can instantly remedy the situation (without cost, and while continuing to publish in their chosen journal, whether open access or not) by archiving a copy of their refereed and accepted article in an open access repository. See OASIS for all information related to open access and how it works for the research community.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Neil Pakenham-Walsh"
To: "HIFA2015 - Healthcare Information For All by 2015"

Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2010 1:00 PM
Subject: [HIFA2015] Forward: [DISASTR-OUTREACH-LIB ] Full-text material for

> Dear HIFA2015 colleagues,

The message below is forwarded from the email forum [DISASTR-OUTREACH-LIB ]. I think this move by restricted-access journals - to open access for a few weeks in response to major disasters - is welcome. *But* it also raises interesting moral and ethical questions about the status quo: the world's scholarly journals and other knowledge
resource continue to be mainly restricted-access, while the silent and ongoing disaster continues: tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily each day in developing countries - while policymakers, healthcare providers, and citizens lack access to the information they need to support policymaking, health care, and the capacity to make vital decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Best wishes,

> HIFA2015 profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is the coordinator of the HIFA2015
> campaign and co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network. He
> started his career as a hospital doctor in the UK, and has clinical
> experience in rural Ecuador and Peru. For the last 20 years he has been
> committed to improving the availability of healthcare information for
> health workers in developing countries. He has worked with the World
> Health Organization, the Wellcome Trust, Medicine Digest and INASP
> (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications).
> www.hifa2015.org neil.pakenham-walsh AT ghi-net.org

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