Memorandum from Andrew Vickers, Medical
Researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, USA
I am a medical researcher now working in the
USA at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the most
well-known cancer hospitals in the world, and Weill Cornell Medical
College, one of the USA's premier medical schools. I was educated
in the UK, completing my undergraduate science degree at Cambridge
and obtaining a doctoral degree from Oxford.
I am writing in support of Open Access publishing.
To give a concrete example, I have recently completed a paper
describing the results of a large clinical trial for patients
with migraine. The trial was funded by the National Health Service.
I decided to submit this paper to the British Medical Journal,
a journal which publishes copies of papers on the Internet where
they can be accessed by anyone, regardless of the payment of subscription
fees. This means that my work will be available to other scientists
and, perhaps more importantly, to doctors and patients. Submission
to a traditional paper journal, run for profit by a commercial
organisation, would have meant that:
1. I would have to buy back the results of
my own research in the form of reprints.
2. Access to the results of my research,
which was paid for with public funds, would be restricted to those
with a subscription to the journal in question.
3. It is unlikely that individual GPs or
patients, or consumer advocacy groups, would have such subscriptions
and hence would have difficulty accessing my research.
4. The clinical care of patients would therefore
not optimally benefit from my research.
As a medical researcher the case seems open
and shut to me: science is about the free flow of ideas; traditional
journal publications profit by restricting the free flow of ideas.
Open access journals seem the only solution.
I recommend that the UK government:
(a) require that the results of publicly-funded
research be published in Open Access journals. By publically-funded,
I mean not only research work related to a specific grant aware
from the Medical Research Council or National Health Service,
but research conducted by those whose salary is covered by public
funding (eg some categories of university professors).
(b) encourage publicly funded institutions,
such as universities, hospitals and medical schools, to obtain
institutional membership of Open Access initiatives such as BioMed