Open Access, Open Data: The Research & Publishing Community’s Reactions to the Outbreak of Novel Coronavirus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a “public health emergency of international concern” on 30 January 2020. Amid the chaos of information and misinformation, it is heartening to see many researchers and publishers giving free access to critical information to bring about a greater understanding of this virus.

Open Data, Open Knowledge

Open data is “data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose”. The below section shows a few examples where researchers have shared datasets related to the virus.

  • On 10 Jan 2020, the first draft genome sequence of the so-called 2019-nCoV was deposited to the open access repository Virological.org by Professor Edward  Holmes on behalf of a consortium led by Professor Yong-Zhen Zhang of Fudan University, Shanghai, with clinicians and scientists from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and School of Public Health, the Central Hospital of Wuhan, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and the University of Sydney, Australia. The sequence has also been deposited on GenBank. Five additional virus sequences related to the outbreak were deposited two days later in GISAID, and the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission is posting regular updates with epidemiological information.
  • Since the release of the gene sequences, coronavirus experts have been pouring over them looking for clues on where the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) came from, how lab officials might test for it, and how it might behave. In addition, due to the release of the gene sequences, public health labs around the world are now able to develop their own diagnostics for the virus which has spread to 18 other countries.
  • Beside the sharing of the gene sequences, the availability of caseload data from public online repositories have allowed researchers to create actionable computer models to predict where the disease might spread next.

The pandemic also galvanised open collaborative efforts.

  • Wellcome Trust, a funding agency in the UK, is pledging up to £10 million to accelerate research and support global efforts to tackle the ongoing epidemic. They have called on researchers, journals and funders to ensure that research findings and data relevant to this outbreak are shared rapidly and openly to inform the public health response and help save lives.

Since the release of the gene sequences, coronavirus experts have been pouring over them looking for clues on where the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) came from, how lab officials might test for it, and how it might behave. In addition, due to the release of the gene sequences, public health labs around the world are now able to develop their own diagnostics for the virus which has spread to 18 other countries.

Beside the sharing of the gene sequences, the availability of caseload data from public online repositories have allowed researchers to create actionable computer models to predict where the disease might spread next.

 

Open Access is the “free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment”.

To help speed up research work in this area, major publishers have also made resources on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Open Access. Check out their website for more details.

  • Elsevier has created a Novel Coronavirus Information Center and put together free health and medical research. Information on this portal includes
    • Clinical solutions with selected content from Clinical Solutions Nursing, Interprofessional Practice and Patient Education collections
    • Chinese language resources
    • Research from journals (including The Lancet Coronavirus Hub), book chapters and preprint server (SSRN)
  • Oxford University Press has made available content from selected online resources freely accessible to assist researchers, medical professionals, policy makers, and others who are working to address this potential health crisis. Resources include Oxford Medical Online, Clinical Chemistry, Journal of Travel Medicine, National Science Review and Virus Evolution.
  • Springer Nature has identified a list of most recent and relevant journal articles relating to coronavirus research and made them free to access. They encourage the early sharing of research submitted to their journals through preprints and also strongly urge authors to share underlying interim and final research datasets relating to the outbreak as rapidly and widely as possible.
  • Taylor & Francis has compiled a coronavirus reading list and have made all coronavirus-related, peer-reviewed research published in Taylor & Francis journals free to access and available for anyone to read.
  • Wiley has compiled a list of medical and scientific articles, and made them free to read until April 2020 (or longer if needed). Articles include research from the Journal of Medical Virology, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, Zoonoses and Public Health and many more.

For more information on open data and open access, you can reach out to the Scholarly Communications team @ nusl.scomm@nus.edu.sg

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