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Update on Open Science and COVID-19

March 18, 2020

While many of us are following good social distancing practices by staying home, medical researchers and practitioners continue their work out in the world. Back in January I described how Open Science supports public health research and response in these kinds of fast-moving situations. It’s time for a quick update.

Before March 13th, less than half of coronavirus research was openly available to read. On March 13th, national science advisors from 12 countries posted an open letter to journal publishers, requesting that they open up new and old research articles about coronaviruses. The White House OSTP issued the same request, and on March 16th, the Wellcome Trust published a list of publishers that have pledged to make coronavirus (COVID-19) content freely available and reusable. Some examples:

Many researchers are posting their research on preprint servers like bioRxiv and medRxiv. Here’s a direct link to COVID-19 SARS-CoV-19 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv.

There’s also a preprint server that focuses on infectious disease and organizes quick reviews of the articles posted there. It’s called Outbreak Science. Wellcome Trust, PREreview, and Outbreak Science created and maintain it.

Finally, the Welch Medical Library has published a COVID-19 Resources guide to provide the health care professional of Johns Hopkins University and Medicine with timely content and resources regarding the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.

If you’re interested in Open Science the Johns Hopkins Libraries provide several relevant services.

  • Data Services supports JHU researchers on the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses with a spectrum of resources for working with data, including open data.
  • The Public Access Submission System (PASS) and JScholarship are available to all JH faculty to use to submit article manuscripts to funder repositories and our own institutional repository, JScholarship. These tools help faculty satisfy the requirements of the Johns Hopkins Open Access Policy.
  • Librarians and Informationists are prepared to discuss questions you might have around preprints, open access, copyright, and other topics related to Open Science. We have two specialists, who work primarily with the changing scholarly publishing landscape. Caitlin Carter and Robin Sinn work at the East Baltimore and Homewood campuses respectively, and welcome questions from any Hopkins affiliate.

To stay up-to-date about COVID-19 keep an eye on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 tracking map, a great example of Open Science.  Wash your hands, follow social distancing guidelines, and stay safe.

You Read a Lot of Open Access Books!

I’ve written here a lot about Open Access, primarily to journal articles. In fact, Hopkins has an Open Access Policy which asks our faculty to make their peer-reviewed journal articles openly available for all to read.

Now it’s time to turn our attention to Open Books. These books are produced by reputable publishers, go through editorial and peer review, and are free to read on the web. You may have to pay if you want a print copy, but it’s usually quite reasonable. We include many of these books in Catalyst so you can discover them and use them to support your research. Below are some examples with a little bit of their origin stories to show how many ways a book becomes open.

From War to Peace in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Ukraine by Daniel Serwer, SAIS

Dr. Serwer worked with a commercial publisher to make his book open.

How Boston Played: Sport, Recreation, and Community, 1865 – 1915 by Stephen Hardy

Project MUSE, run by the Johns Hopkins University Press, makes many current books openly available.

The Beautiful, Novel, and Strange: Aesthetics and Heterodoxy by Ronald Paulson.

Encore Editions, also from Johns Hopkins University Press, digitizes older books and makes them openly available.

Myths that Made America by Heike Paul

This book was opened by Knowledge Unlatched, which organizes library support to pay publishers to make books openly available.

The Johns Hopkins Libraries have been members of Knowledge Unlatched for several years. We’re pleased to learn that Johns Hopkins University has been named a 2020 Open Access Hero by Knowledge Unlatched, because in 2019 Johns Hopkins students, faculty, and staff interacted with Knowledge Unlatched books more than any other institution.



A New Coronavirus and Open Science

January 2020

News about a new coronavirus moves quickly around the world and so does the science. Have you thought about how or why that science can travel so expeditiously around the globe?

Many scientists – especially those who work in public health and environmental sciences – are keen to share their research efforts quickly and openly – to be sure science and human knowledge move forward quickly. In a public health crisis like this, this kind of speed is required.

Chinese researchers who sequenced the virus immediately placed it in GenBank, an open repository for genetic sequence information. That allowed researchers from around the world to start their work just a few hours later. The results of that research are shared openly on preprint servers; in this instance, bioRxiv. A preprint is a research paper that hasn’t gone through peer review – as it would have to at a journal, but it does go through a screening process to ensure content is scientific, original, and will not pose a health risk. In this case, to save as many lives as possible and slow the rate of infection no one can wait for peer review to happen.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) is taking advantage of several open data sources and has built a dashboard and map that tracks the daily spread of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV). They use a number of international and national sources for their information; you can see the details in the CSSE blog post about their work.

There are still lots of details to work out to make Open Science the norm in all research disciplines. The Hopkins Libraries provide the following services in support of Open Science.

Data Services supports JHU researchers on the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses with a spectrum of resources for working with data, including open data.
• The Public Access Submission System (PASS) and JScholarship are available to all JH faculty to use to submit article manuscripts to funder repositories and our own institutional repository, JScholarship. These tools help faculty satisfy the requirements of the Johns Hopkins Open Access Policy.
Librarians and Informationists are prepared to discuss questions you might have around preprints, open access, copyright, and other topics related to Open Science. We have two specialists, who work primarily with the changing scholarly publishing landscape. Caitlin Carter and Robin Sinn work at the East Baltimore and Homewood campuses respectively, and welcome questions from any Hopkins affiliate.

Special thanks to Paige Mann, STEM Librarian | Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Redlands for first sharing her Open Access & the Coronavirus blog and encouraging adaptations and sharing.

Interview about PASS with Sayeed Choudhury available on SPARC site.

Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean for Research Data Management and the Hodson Director of the Digital Research and Curation Center at Sheridan Libraries, was recently interviewed by SPARC about the development of PASS, the Public Access Submission System.

Read the interview:

Open Access Week 2019

Open for Whom? Open Access and Health Equity

An Interview with Dr. Anthony So, MD, MPA, Professor of the Practice and Founding Director of the Innovation+Design Enabling Access (IDEA) Initiative

Please tell us why you first got involved in the Open Movement.

As an officer at the Rockefeller Foundation, one of my early missions took me to Khayelitsha, a township outside Cape Town, where I met the founders of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). I came away wondering, as did they, why a pharmaceutical innovation system—so heavily reliant on public support—would price HIV/AIDS medicines at $10,000-15,000 per patient per year. They would soon make global headlines as 39 pharmaceutical companies sued the post-apartheid government of Nelson Mandela over its Medicines Control Act. The court case placed the issue of access to patented HIV/AIDS medicines at the center of global attention.

So my first grant at the Rockefeller Foundation supported the Consumer Project on Technology, now known as Knowledge Ecology International, a group that would negotiate the generic entry of AIDS triple therapy for $350 per patient per year. At $10,000-15,000, the development community could continue to balk at treating the 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries, at that time. But at less than a dollar a day, one could no longer deny HIV-infected patients treatment. By lowering the price of hope, a Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria also became possible, and patients would have reason to seek voluntary counseling and testing. Without treatment, they were only promised a lifetime of stigma, but with treatment, there was hope.

What explained the gulf in prices between patented and generic HIV/AIDS drugs? Could it really be just R&D premium for bringing these drugs to market? If drug company CEOs have responsibility to steward the returns from their investments, did not governments have such obligations to taxpayers? These questions sparked my interest in examining more deeply the process of innovation and how it might be harnessed to bring forward health technologies that might benefit those in need. With a more open innovation ecosystem, we can ensure greater access to the building blocks of knowledge and truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

How do you incorporate Open into your work?

My research and policy interests have long centered on two tales of globalization. One story is where the expectations of life-saving drugs cross borders, but the drugs lag behind. Another is where products like tobacco cross borders readily, but consumer protections do not. The asymmetry in what globalizes and what does not results in health inequity. These examples show that the sharing of knowledge across borders helps to level such asymmetry. Open Science and Open Access can transform how we innovate and disseminate this knowledge.

Open knowledge figures into our work, both as a focus for research on how to re-engineer the innovation of health technologies, and as a policy focus for our work through the IDEA (Innovation+Design Enabling Access) Initiative and the Transformative Technologies and Institutions’ theme as part of the Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World. From signing the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing to authoring a commissioned paper on “Sharing Knowledge for Global Health” for the Institute of Medicine’s study on “The U.S. Commitment to Global Health,” my program’s research and policy work have worked in tandem to advance Open for greater health equity.

Can you provide an example of how Open Science or Open Access has already begun to impact health equity and research?

Increasingly, the line between innovator and user has blurred, and Open Science and Open Access have helped to empower users to play a greater role in innovation. In 2007, I had the good fortune of being introduced to a remarkable young man, Josh Sommer. As a freshman at Duke University, he discovered that he had chordoma, a rare cancer with an average survival of 7 years from diagnosis. Undaunted, he began working in the only lab then funded by NIH for chordoma research, which by coincidence was at Duke. He realized that the barriers to research for a rare disease would never deliver a cure in time. Josh, with his mother, co-founded the Chordoma Foundation. Coaching him to pursue an Echoing Green fellowship, we would incubate his fledgling patient disease foundation in our Duke Program on Global Health and Technology Access.

Open Access to the journal literature helped to empower patients to chart research agenda and to engage a community of scientists through the Chordoma Foundation. The Foundation would learn that the chordoma cell lines being used in research on this rare disease were too often not, in fact, chordoma. So they set out to re-engineer how R&D was conducted—developing quality cell lines for chordoma research. The traditional approach would have been to give a grant to a single lab, but recognizing that multiple labs might have stored away potential chordoma cell lines, they hit upon a novel approach. By offering $10K prizes for each cell line verified as chordoma through the Innocentive prize platform, they could bring on-line many more cell lines. Making them freely available to interested scientists, they could grow the community of scientists conducting chordoma research using quality cell lines.

Josh would teach me valuable lessons not only about Open Access and Open Science, but also of the resilience of the human spirit. A decade later, I attended his wedding, a day that we never could have been sure would come. And every day, I am reminded of the transformative power of open knowledge.

Blog Post: Author Rights and Copyright Resources for Academic Research

Caitlin Carter, Scholarly Communication & Open Access Policy Fellow,
Welch Medical Library

It’s International Open Access Week this week, and the theme is “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge.” Welch Medical Library is celebrating by highlighting several copyright and author resources that empower authors to share research openly and be an equitable participant in the publishing ecosystem.

As part of my work socializing the value of open access and our Johns Hopkins faculty Open Access Policy on the East Baltimore campus, I’ve heard variations of the same two questions from researchers: how do I know whether the publisher allows me to share my research, and why would I want to retain my copyright to my research?

While the first question makes sense; an author’s right to share research is not always readily apparent, I naively thought that the second might be self-explanatory. As authors can attest, many, but not all, subscription academic journals ask for a copyright transfer agreement that includes signing over exclusive rights to publish and disseminate your research as part of the publication process. Besides supporting the ability, in general, to assert copyright over one’s own intellectual property, I realized that I needed specific examples why academic authors should keep their copyright.

Here are a few reasons why authors may want to retain rights to their research:

  • Authors may want to reuse data visualizations or other aspects of their prior research in future work.
  • Authors may want to share research with students, colleagues, and other researchers, but may not be able to if the library does not subscribe to the author’s journal of choice.
  • Authors may want to share versions of their research on a personal website or in a subject or institutional repository. Retaining copyright may help resolve any questions about what versions of research and where publishers will allow researchers to share.

This week I will be Tweeting out (@CaitlinC1226) more resources that might help authors navigate the publishing landscape, all in the spirit of openness, sharing, equity, and author empowerment. Here is one to get started:

SPARC Author Addendum: this addendum helps you modify your copyright transfer agreements with non-open access publishers, and it will let you select your individual rights you would like for your research.

Click here to view Hopkins’ 2018 Open Access Week events.

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