To fight Covid-19, open access to scientific publishing
Government science advisors and other public advocates recently convinced some publishers to make some Covid-19-related content freely available, but this is not enough. The next breakthrough in the pandemic may well come from work not originally recognized as being related to Covid-19, and a vast amount of this scientific research remains locked away. This includes work on serum testing, viral replication, understanding coronavirus life cycles, and much more.
The Covid-19 crisis merely highlights an acute form of a more chronic and systemic problem. Scientific research has a fundamental role in finding solutions to many of the pressing problems facing the world today, from cancer to climate change, and progress on all these fronts is slowed when access to the latest research, as well as archives, is unnecessarily restricted.
On behalf of more than 100 active biomedical researchers, we urge the scientific publishing industry to open its store of scientific knowledge — which the research community has entrusted to it — and make this knowledge available to the world. If not, the governments that funded this work should declare eminent domain over these materials and demand immediate, unimpeded access. It would be the ethical thing to do.
Peter Walter is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. R. Dyche Mullins is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California at San Francisco and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.