Saturday, June 14, 2008

Put yourself in the patient's shoes: no embargoes to medical research

One of the side-benefits of medical research is that businesses get to profit from some of the money spent on research. This is a fine thing, but it is essential to remember that this is not the point.

There are those in the open access movement who are very sensitive to the desires of publishers to retain revenues, and willing to compromise by allowing for embargo periods before open access. This is generous, but my plea is to please remember the point of medical research: preventing and alleviating human suffering.

For anyone considering whether an embargo period on open access is fair, or how long an embargo period is fair, please put yourself in the patient's shoes.

Imagine that you are in your own living room, talking with your loved one who has just received a diagnosis of a terminal or very serious illness, that cannot be treated with yesterday's treatments.

If a new treatment or cure is made possible with money paid for by your tax dollars, how long do you think you, your loved one and your health care providers should wait to read the results?

If a new line of research has opened up that shows some promise of a new treatment, how long should we hold off on making the results available to all researchers so that everyone available and interested can build on what has been done, and advance our knowledge towards the cure?

For more of my writings on this topic, please see In Lieu of Flowers: An Open Letter to the American Association of Cancer Research and Open Access: to Help the Helpers.