Ginny Barbour, Chief Editor PLoS Medicine, and Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Coordinator, HIFA2015 and CHILD2015 Co-director, Global Healthcare Information Network
A few weeks ago HIFA2015 and PLoS collaborated on a webinar “Can Open Access publishing provide Healthcare Information For All by 2015?” We had more than 50 participants from many different countries including from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America. Our aim in doing this webinar was threefold; first to really try to address the question of how OA can contribute to the goal of HIFA2015. Second, as part of that, we wanted to make it absolutely clear what the difference between free and open access was – to clear up much of the confusion that surrounds these terms and which often stifles the debate on access. Finally, we wanted to start a debate amongst the HIFA2015 email discussion forum on what else is needed to fulfill the goals of HIFA2015 – for example what are the technological or logistical barriers that need to be overcome.
We’ve been really delighted with the success of the webinar. Not only did the technology work well (not a phrase you often hear) (thanks again to the University of Iowa and Professor Tom Cook for hosting it so superbly) but there were verbal, written, and twitter contributions during the webinar and the debate is indeed continuing on the HIFA2015 forum. All of this is happening in the face of a rapidly accelerating move towards open access elsewhere; the Wellcome Trust has announced its intention to require publication only in fully OA journals; the World Bank has made all its material available under a Creative Commons license, and the issue of access to scientific information and the barriers that currently exist is again being debated in newspapers.
HIFA2015 has a unique role and specific contribution to make in this debate. More than any other venue, it represents end users of information in some of the poorest countries on earth. Recent contributions show how much knowledge there is on the HIFA2015 forum on OA and how much interest there is in changing. The forum includes 5000 health professionals, publishers, information specialists, policymakers and others, from more than 2000 organisations in 165 countries. Some members are OA proponents, some are OA sceptics, and together we are exploring how OA publishers and others can work together more effectively towards our shared goal: a world where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge. It is no longer acceptable that lack of access to basic, life-saving information for citizens and health workers continues to be a major contributor to preventable death and suffering worldwide. Open access publishing is playing an important and increasing role in global health and in the lives of people worldwide. Join HIFA2015 today – www.hifa2015.org – and work with us to make information poverty history.
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