Why Should Researchers Publish Open Access Papers Related to COVID-19?


Never in the last hundred years has the world been ravaged by a pandemic that has brought everything to a standstill. As the ramifications of the novel coronavirus are still unfolding, the expansion of the research horizon in STEM has been remarkable. Moreover, despite the challenging situations, the scholarly publishing industry pushed ahead with determination by providing unfettered access to COVID-19 related research papers. The open access for COVID-19 research papers is crucial for researchers. policy makers, practitioners, and the general public at large.

Since the start of the pandemic, a substantial amount of literature related to COVID-19 is already available as open access and more publishers are adopting open access policies to disseminate authentic and trustworthy scientific information. This worldwide barrier-free visibility has helped academics with more citations for their work. This demonstrably also leads to increase in newer advances in COVID-19 related research.

In this article, we will provide an overview on why researchers should make their COVID-19 research papers open access and also discuss the implications of this paradigm shift on academic research.

Open Access Supports Research, Discovery, and Learning

The benefits associated with making research results openly available are multifaceted. Furthermore, the revised Plan S has revolutionized the reach of academic research amongst the scholarly and non-scholarly audience. In the wake of COVID-19, many researchers collaborated to study the virus so as to spur scientific advancement and move forward to combat the deadly disease. Findings from research conducted across the globe for over a year now has brought a promising trajectory to the realm of scientific research. While research is important to define the finding and causes, it is even more important to document and publish it.

The incessant research conducted related to COVID-19 has revealed multidirectional findings. This has increased the scope for discovery and learning for researchers to study the deadly virus. The results derived from such studies will eventually help us in our fight against the virus.

Trustworthy Sources to Curate Information

As more publishers commit to open access publication, researchers are drawn to publishing as much research to increase the amount of literature related to COVID-19. Considering that the subject is topical and time-sensitive, researchers and publishers are pushing for rapid and open peer review to facilitate fast-track and frequent publishing. In this haste of publishing rapidly, the fear of coming across non-authentic literature is increasing. Meanwhile, what is of utmost concern is the authenticity of the research. This can ideally be evaluated by expert peer reviewing system.

Some researchers are resorting to bypass traditional journals altogether and are instead putting their work on disciplinary preprint servers. The absence of peer review on these platforms has the potential of spreading misinformation. While referring to literature on such platforms, always self-review the correctness of the information by crowdsourcing.

Additionally, magazines, social media, views from unauthorized personnel, etc. are some other sources that may ignite the flame of misinformation. Rather than using the information availed from a questionable source, you must do a thorough check and collate trustworthy information ethically to support your findings.

In the haste to publish, researchers must not compromise with the credibility and authenticity of his/her paper.

Importance of Publishing Evidence-based Results

With each passing day, the world expects the outbreak to subside. However, the current scenario speaks a different story!

As several measures are being taken to “flatten the curve” of the contagion globally, how can academic publishing add to the effort? Clearly, evidence-based open access research will act as a common pool resource to trace the severity of the pandemic and eventually combat the same.

Considering that there is a need for dissemination of scientific information regarding the deadly disease, what is more important is providing evidence-based transparent information without infringing on the privacy of the study participants. Many international conventions, ethical frameworks, and declarations have identified this dilemma. Guidelines are laid out to deal with data in situations where the confidentiality or privacy of the subject is hampered. The data acquired through such studies offer key building blocks to create a research pool. Consequently, publishing of more evidence-based open access research increases the scope to prompt action in the pandemic diminishing arena. Furthermore, it reduces research waste by publishing not only positive results, but also null and negative results.

Scientists are studying and documenting complex characteristics of the virus, its varying patterns of interactions, mechanism, and its immunity defiling system to accelerate the process of combating COVID-19.

Responsible Use of Open Access

While the ease of accessibility of open access papers is a positive, one must remember to use the data responsibly. In general, ethical usage of literature forms the cornerstone of scientific publishing. Researchers must have mutual respect for the integrity of research literature. It is important to accurately cite sources wherever applicable and necessary. You must also mention conflicts of interest, if any.

Finding Some Reliable Open Access Papers on COVID-19

There are several freely accessible trustworthy open access COVID-19 related research available online. Following are some of the  authentic sources of COVID-19 literature:

  1. LitCovid: It has a selection of COVID-19 related publications in PubMed since January 2020
  2. Dimensions COVID-19: It has a selection of publications in Dimensions, including datasets and clinical trials.
  3. 1Science Coronavirus Research Repository: It has a selection of publications in 1Science, including SSRN preprints (not limited to Elsevier publications).
  4. bioRxiv / medRxiv COVID19: This includes preprints from bioRxiv & medRxiv
  5. CORD-19 dataset (for TDM): It has a selection of publications from WHO corpus, PubMed Central, bioRiv/medRxiv and publishers.

As a researcher, how have you contributed to the scientific community with your research on COVID-19? Should open access be limited to only COVID-19 related papers? How will the scientific community accept the emergence of open access papers? Will this change once the pandemic subsides? How accessible are authentic COVID-19 related papers? Let us know about your experience with publishing and referring papers related to COVID-19 in the comments section below!

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