Open Access: What’s the Big Deal? Future Medical Discovery

In today’s social networked world, “Good Ideas Can Come from Anywhere“, as I wrote in a previous post.

…Except ideas and knowledge hidden behind a paywall — including most scientific and medical research.

You Need Access to Dots to Connect Them

In our increasingly networked world, the ability to make connections, especially across disciplines, is key to innovation. However, if you cannot access knowledge, how can you connect the dots?

Open Access to scientific research was a central topic of Tuesday’s #HCLDR (Healthcare Leadership) Twitter Chat with 16-year old Jack Andraka, the prodigious young researcher. By now, many in the medical community have heard about Jack. He was recently invited to meet the President, netting a seat next to Appple CEO Tim Cook at the State of the Union address. Today, Jack will infiltrate mass media when he is honored on the popular TV show, “The Doctors”.

Who is Jack Andraka? Jack Andraka is a high school student and the winner of the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for the invention of a paper cancer sensor that can quickly and inexpensively diagnose pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. Jack’s passion for Open Access grew from frustration in accessing relevant research for his cancer project.

Open Access Explained: The Big Deal

“I didn’t understand why this was a big deal … and then we had a family emergency.” –Jonathan Eisen

Picture 301

This drawing is from Open Access Explained, an animated video with Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen. According to Eisen,

“I was up at 3 in the middle of the night in the hospital next to my wife … trying to find information about a particular medical treatment, and I couldn’t get access to the papers. Our doctors didn’t know the answers to these particular questions. And we needed to decide about what to do about this medical treatment. And here I was, a trained scientist, with the ability to read and interpret and understand many of these papers…and I couldn’t get them! That was the moment for me.

In that hospital room, I paid. I bought dozens of articles. The problem is that you don’t know which article is relevant until after you pay for it. The abstracts don’t always make it clear what is contained in the paper. There was no return policy. I couldn’t buy it and then say, ‘This is wrong!’ So now are you going to spend $1,200 to just find out if possibly they are relevant?”

Jack laments the same problem in  “Why Science Journal Paywalls Have to Go”:

“I soon learned that many of the papers I was interested in reading were hidden behind expensive paywalls. I convinced my mom to use her credit card for a few but was discouraged when some of them turned out to be expensive, but not useful to me. She became much less willing to pay when she found some in the recycle bin!”

jack Andraka Tweets Open Access

There is no shortcut to a fix, but the next generation is working on it.

“Open Access would be an important first step. I would love to see research that is publicly funded by taxes to be publicly available through neighborhood libraries and public school libraries.” –Jack Andraka

Innovative Medical App for Journal Research

Journal Club AppWading through the sea of medical journals can also be overwhelming for physicians and medical students. As Eisen mentioned, one of the complaints about research abstracts is that descriptions do not provide enough information. Last year, two Stanford medical residents, Dave Iberri, MD, and Manuel Lam, MD, launched the Journal Club for iPhone and iPad app. The app features user-reviewed summaries by physicians of the top studies in medical research.

“We invited clinicians of all levels of training to join the writing process, because we wanted our summaries to be collaboratively written and peer-reviewed by our users. With Tim Plante, MD, a medicine resident at Georgetown University, we launched a website called Wiki Journal Club, which is built on the familiar wiki platform popularized by Wikipedia. Wiki Journal Club makes it easy to collaborate.”

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HealthIsCool is a writer and trends analyst. She writes about health innovation, wearable tech, the Internet of Things (IoT), new health technologies, and future trends. Her latest trends research includes: The Rise of Wearable Technology and Google's Ambitions in Healthcare. Follow on Twitter at @HealthIsCool.

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