The Coronavirus is impacting virtually all parts of our lives; we need knowledge and practices from not only the medical field but from all areas of public health and the social sciences. The crisis has shone a light on just how critical the implications of Open Access (OA) can be to society: while researchers are working hard to find a vaccine and effective drugs, many publishers and service providers have stepped up to provide access to research and information temporarily.
The OA and research communities have been working for almost two decades to distribute research in the interest of strong science and the public good. This work has directly fed into new policies, work processes, services, tools, and infrastructure that have enabled access to critical knowledge in this crisis. In recent weeks more and more researchers have been sharing publications and data more quickly than ever before, starting with the genetic sequence of COVID-19 being posted in GenBank – an OA database; this, in turn, led to more articles, data and code being shared openly – without delay – to spur the race to develop a vaccine.
The research community has been creating new open data resources such as The Human Coronaviruses Data Initiative, the COVID-19 Open Source Dashboard, Wikiproject COVID-19 and the COVID Tracking Project. Far fewer data collections exist relative to publications, however. In the instances where data collections do exist, they are often presented as tools that visualise or crunch the data rather than store and share it, which reflects how much more needs to be done to encourage researchers to share their research data.
In terms of OA publications, resources and services such as CORD-19, LitCovid, or the Outbreak Science Rapid PREreview are now available. Many researchers are sharing initial results on bioRxiv and medRxiv so that their work can be viewed, reviewed and tested, quickly, by fellow researchers within their community.
A real need exists for a more rapid sharing of FAIR research data by researchers and governments alike. We are still a long way off from where we need to be and, although progress has been made to enable increased access to vital information, we must not go back to ‘business as usual’ after this current public health crisis has passed.