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How open access publishing bridges academia with industry and public policy

One of the great hopes and promises of academic open access (OA) publishing is that it will connect academia with industry and governmental policy makers. Such connections form structural equity, which in turn promotes diversity and inclusion. If the goal is open science and open knowledge, OA publishing forms a key element in embracing a diversity of knowledge, practices, languages, research outputs and research topics. OA plays a significant role in ensuring equality among researchers from developing and developed countries. Many bridges do exist, as explored in this article.

Financial linkages

One bridge, that of financial sponsorship of research and the subsequent publishing of research results, is obvious. Industry and public funding agencies provide financial wherewithal to academic centres in the form of grants, fellowships and other funding. Because industry and public funding pays for the research, grant stipulations dictate that outputs of the research must be publicly available without charge. The number of grant-making entities that require OA publishing is growing, while the number of those supporting traditional subscription/controlled circulation models is diminishing.

Academic training as entry into industry workforce

Academics and researchers who receive industry and government sponsorship and subsequently publish results via OA become highly visible individuals. Not surprisingly, their publications frequently report favourable results, thus promoting their benefactors. Academic research trains scientists for research careers, both in academic and industry sectors. The pool of academics trained in OA publishing provides industry with deep intellectual and workforce resources.

OA publishing as a catalyst for industry research

OA publishing triggers, stimulates and re-shapes industry research. Because it reaches a virtually unlimited global audience, search for novel parallel (and even tangential) research projects becomes second nature. If a research team finds itself stuck, all they need do is conduct a search of OA databases (OA journals and repositories alike). 

OA publishing rapidly makes available research and datasets to other research teams globally. Results are published in close to real time; a thing of the past is the lengthy time lag between submission of manuscripts and eventual publication, as experienced in traditional publishing. 

Furthermore, there is no local or regional silo-ing of data or information. OA publishing fosters the cross-pollination of ideas, research data, resources and personnel worldwide. As a result, innovation increases, as does the pace of discovery and dissemination of results. OA champions the leadership principle that ‘we can do more together than we can do separately’.

Case study: COVID-19 OA research

The COVID-19 global pandemic has ravaged the world in myriad ways: at the time of writing, over 219 million cases world-wide have been reported, with over 4.55 million deaths as a result. Global and individual country economies have been severely disrupted, as have travel, global food output and distribution, social relationships, the nature of work and mental health status for hundreds of millions of people. Hospital systems have been sorely tested and health care professionals have been pushed to exhaustion. 

From the midst of this cyclone of woe, a few bright lights of hope have emerged. One of the brightest is how OA publishing has been a primary vehicle for rapid and free sharing of information among academia, industry research and public policy. 

In numerous countries, governments called upon industry leaders to develop vaccines. Industry accepted the challenge, and teams of researchers around the world began to generate research papers of their findings. Multiple disciplines were (and remain) involved: public health, virology, genetics, vaccine development, clinical trials, metadata analysis, and distribution and logistics science, to name a few. 

The Wellcome Trust issued a call for researchers to share COVID-19 manuscripts as preprints; dozens of funders, publishers and scientific societies signed onto the Wellcome statement to promote the open sharing of data. One thing is clear; the pandemic prompted an avalanche of new papers. 

A preliminary study based in PubMed on OA articles on COVID-19 revealed a much higher production of scientific articles than in previous epidemics. More than 500,000 from around the globe were released as preprints or fully published OA articles. Governments, policy makers, scientists and industry elements all worked together to mitigate and combat the virus.

Even though the hopes of OA advocates (who envisioned that pandemic-related articles would help birth a new, fully open publishing system) were not realised, the OA output related to the COVID-19 pandemic unequivocally demonstrates how OA publishing bridges gaps between academic and industry and public policy makers. 

End note

Had the pandemic occurred prior to the development of the current OA ecosystem, the vaccine could have taken years instead of months to develop, and the global morality rate could have been significantly higher. OA can serve as a primary structural element for creating truly open science and open knowledge frameworks world-wide.


Read previous (fifth) in series: Hybrid and Transformative Journals: What they are and how to work with them

Read next (seventh/final) in series: How to use open access (OA) journals to advance and promote your research


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