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Why should academics in health be using open access?


A blog post written by Professor Carol Bond, Professor of Learning and Teaching, Health in Higher Education, to celebrate Open Access Week

For people living with a long term condition, information is the first step to effective self-management.

Participatory healthcare is a model of self-management characterised by emphasis on people living with long term conditions being seen as equal partners in their own care. Possibly the most essential resource to enable this is access to reliable information.

Before the wide availability of internet, the access to this high-quality information was available to healthcare professionals and their librarians, but not to patients. One of the early champions of the participatory healthcare movement, Dr Tom Ferguson (Doc Tom) recounts a tale of a patient who wanted to know more about a new treatment being recommended by his doctor having to resort to telephoning the hospital library pretending to be his doctor and asking for a journal article to be left out for him to collect to be able to access the research information that his doctor had.

The internet has changed that, however a lot of information whilst available online is hidden behind paywalls; academic journals often fall into that category, making the information available, but expensive if having to be bought on an article by article basis.

Free resources such as Wikipedia, whilst having been called ‘the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals’ doesn’t give direct access to research. Pages that follow the Wikipedia guidelines include references and links to sources however again pay walls often block access to a lot of the research based sources.

When thinking about where to publish research, academics often think about the journals that will give the highest citation rates, or where academic peers will see our research. We should however also think about how people living with long term conditions will be able to access our research. We are in a unique position to be able to promote open access to our research.

If authors aren’t sure where to find high quality open access journals DOAJ - the Directory of Open Access Journals is an excellent place to start.

Another route for making research more widely available is the use of repositories, including institutional repositories, now a standard service provided by universities.

Our choice of publishers, and making sure we use institutional repositories means that researchers have the power to make sure that all potential end users of our research can freely access our research.

This blog post is one of the pieces shared on the Library News page as part of Open Access week.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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