“It has been possible to see a lot of the work after a one-year embargo. The National Institutes of Health, the NIH, established over 20 years ago a public digital archive called PubMed Central, which has the full text of articles submitted to it by its grantees. But that archive was not nearly as useful as it might have been because of reluctance of journals to allow that to happen to articles on which they own the copyright, because investigators have been compliant with the desires of their favorite journals, and for many other reasons, until Congress said to the NIH well over a decade ago, you must get this material into a public database at least within a year after publication. That happened, and now PubMed Central has millions of articles widely used every day by every investigator. But it’s imperiled by not having adequate access to results when they’re published….
In the article, we’ve emphasized the major thing, which is the elimination of an embargo. But the article, the memo, does have many other things in it that are particularly appealing. It requires that a detailed plan be made, not just for displaying published articles but also for making the materials useful in machine-based learning exercises so that the format is compatible with extracting as much information as possible….
There’s no doubt in the minds of almost everybody that the rapid development of the RNA genome of the coronavirus was essential for, first of all, identifying what the agent of COVID-19 was, but then also in developing the vaccines that have been so important in trying to control this pandemic and developing various kinds of tests that allow us to detect the emergence of the variants that have plagued efforts to do public health control of the virus. So I think there are many ways in which it’s obvious that sharing data at the very, very earliest stages through sequence databases and the speed of communication has been remarkable and, of course, helped by the fact that many of our leading periodicals have followed this so closely and so well….
So this is important. And one of the things that some people accuse advocates like me of neglecting is the fact that there are real costs for publication. Nobody’s saying that publication is free. It’s just, we’re trying to promote access. But someone’s got to pay the costs of doing peer review. The costs are much less than they might otherwise be because the authors and the reviewers don’t get paid. Nevertheless, there are costs. And how do they get covered?
Well, the costs should be borne and are largely borne by the funders of research. And if you view the publication process as an element of the research experience, which it certainly is, it’s a very small element– as I mentioned, just a couple of percent– and, of course, essential if you’re going to make use of the work that gets done with the money. So in general, it’s the funders who pay….”