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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

#openconmed - or - Open Access for doctors, medical students and associated interested parties!

Happy New Year, folks.  As I'm doing research at the moment, we were lucky to have a family filled festive season, although returning to work is somehow more painful after you've had two weeks off!

Walking in the wilderness of publishing...
Doctors are part of our own sort of family though, and nowhere was this more evident than in the inaugural OpenCon Community Call for Doctors and Medical Students at the end of last year.  When we started running OpenCon Community Calls in 2015, we hoped it would bring an amazing community of Open Access, Data and Education fanatics together between major events.  It's been a privilege to be part of this community of motivated, visionary researchers, librarians, students - people who believe that we can drive change in academic publishing. 

Doctors, and the medical profession as a whole, are often cited as being THE group who need access to publications.  Put simply, without access to research and review articles, we can't see the evidence which informs our clinical practice, which means we can't provide the highest quality care.  But my experience of being involved with the Open Access movement since my medical student days is that there's a major drop off in involvement once medical students become fully fledged doctors.  Where is the medical voice in Open Access? Most doctors I speak to have never heard of Open Access, and those that have are usually research types who have funding which, in the UK at least, increasingly requires publications to be published openly. 

Why is that?  When I explain to my doctor colleagues about Open Access, they agree that it's a big problem.  They've often just not thought about it before.  We're used to hitting pay walls.  Perhaps many/(most?) doctors, especially junior ones, rely on hospital protocols rather than looking for the evidence themselves, but one day these junior doctors will be senior ones.  Then, we'll be the ones making the protocols, the review summaries, the trends by which our junior doctors will practice.  What do we do then if we've never looked into things for ourselves?  And of course this problem is even more acute in the developing world, where walls are being hit left right and centre.  Why has this community not been more vocal then? Lack of time, I think!  When I'm working clinically, I feel like I'm firefighting to keep going - being a doctor is only 50% 'being a doctor' - the other 50% is audits, exams, portfolio.... etc etc.  There just isn't time.  There also isn't spare money to pay Article Processing Charges (APCs) to make things Open Access - as we're not funded by research bodies, if we publish something it's in our 'spare time' with our own funds. 

This community call was designed to bring this important group of people together.  I'll admit, I was a bit nervous.  I appreciate that it's quite daunting to talk to a group of strangers in person, let alone online.  But I needn't have worried - doctors are generally a chatty bunch! To start with, I was amazed by the geographical diversity of the participants.  New Zealand, Germany, USA, Benin, Kenya... to mention a few.  After some initial chatter about how the issue of Open Access affects us in our respective countries, we heard about some of the projects and workshops happening in various corners of the world.  It was great also to share tips and resources, such as PubMed Central and the Open Access Button.  So much great work is already happening out there, and it was the perfect opportunity to connect people who can help each other with policy and advocacy work, organising events and how to engage our local medical communities. 
We walk together, and we walk hopefully!

Some examples - we heard about a workshop where Public Health emergencies such as the Ebola Crisis were used as the basis for a discussion about Open Science in Global Health.  We heard about a Hack4Health event which aimed to bring the IT and health worlds together to synthesise digital solutions to the problem of open-ness.  There is amazing work happening all over the world and the message was always the same - we need more people to get involved, more ideas, more input.

You can check out the full minutes here - I left our call feeling heartened that there was an enthusiastic community out there, and we were creating a home for it together.  It is vitally important that those of us at the relative infancy of our medical careers see ourselves as game changers in the research and publishing world.  I'm excited to see where it takes us!