Having just returned from a family Easter trip, I've had plenty of time over the last few days to think about Open Access to research. Then the Wellcome Trust absolutely leads the way and decides that all its research will be accessible to everyone. During my year in London last year, I used to walk past that building almost everyday - how exciting that a body as eminent as the Wellcome Trust has taken such a massive leap step.
I know I've rabbited on about Open Access before, but the book I've nearly finished reading has given me renewed reason to reiterate its importance. If anyone else has ever read 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson, perhaps you'll agree that an overriding theme that comes across is that science and discovery is as much about communication as it is about the actual thing that has been identified. Discoveries have laid dormant for years, decades even, because the researcher wasn't a very nice person, or didn't explain it very well, or simply picked the wrong medium through which to tell the world. The first of these - well, a good friend of mine once said that he made it his mission to always be nice to everyone, because you never know under what circumstances you may meet again (the medical world in particular is a frighteningly small place - plus, it's nice to be important but it's far more important to be nice!). The second - let's hope all those communication skills we learn at medical school extend to the written word. And as for the last - at least now we have things like conferences and Pubmed to spread the message, regardless of where the information is originally shared. I suppose what I'm saying is - these things are all still issues now, perhaps (hopefully?) to a lesser degree than they were before. What is truly laughable is the idea that having overcome all of those challenges (as well as the discovery itself), the greater population can't actually read anything about what you've done. Imagine if Einstein's Theory of Relativity had been approached in this way?
We need universities to start opening the doors and saying YES to making the research they publish accessible to all. Will they start being left behind if groups like the Wellcome Trust make their studies accessible? Ultimately research is just one idea following another - ideas tend to flow more smoothly if you can have full access to the preceding ones.
It's just my luck that just as I have to really knuckle down to some finals revision that I want to jump up and down about Open Access instead. Really excited about pushing forward with the great work being done by the Right to Research Coalition over the summer to get the message out to the UK's medical schools. Watch this space!