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Open Access Is Not for Scientists. It’s for Medical Students

Across the UK, thousands of newly qualified doctors are celebrating passing their exams and finishing medical school.  Perhaps it is better seen as the end of the beginning, and a chance to reflect on the opportunities our new qualified status might bring.

Image Credit: John Martinez Pavliga at

Of course, I’m not just talking about working in healthcare – but channeling our passion for medicine and science to causes beyond our day-to-day work.  After six years of frustration when trying to read journal articles behind pay walls, championing the importance of Open Access will be high on my agenda.  The forthcoming Right to Research General Assembly in Budapest July 19-21st will be a timely opportunity for international collaboration.  So what’s been going on?

Well in the UK, the Finch report has elaborated on how researchers, funders, publishers and libraries can work together to facilitate a transition towards Open Access.  This builds on statements from David Willetts, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the UK, who has also pledged to make knowledge more accessible.  Reading the Finch Report should be heartening reading – but it made me see how tall a mountain we have yet to climb. The cultural shift required in science must be one of compromise, acknowledging that scientists ultimately want their research not only to be widely read, but also published in a high quality, high impact journal.

Is the pace of change fast enough, and have we found the right targets yet?  Maybe not, but we are tentatively moving forward.  We’re currently collecting information on the Open Access provision in medical schools in the UK, looking at whether universities have a policy on, and are taking action towards, promoting openly available research.  The British Medical Association’s Annual Representative Meeting in June confirmed its support of Open Access and the Right to Research Coalition’s Student Statement on Open Access.  Bringing all this together, we hope to get students lobbying their institutions and the government to make Open Access the rule rather than the exception.

Clearly this isn’t all about medical students and that’s why working with the Right to Research Coalition is so important.  The Right to Resaerch Coalition itself has also been busy, promoting an Open Access petition to the White House that achieved over 25,000 signatures.  The General Assembly in Budapest later this month will see students from all over the world meeting and sharing ideas about promoting Open Access.

Karin Purshouse

And so, another academic year in the UK is at an end, and whether it’s merely a summer break or a permanent end to university life, there are many ways in which you can get involved with Medsin-UK, the Right to Research Coalition and the Open Access movement.  It’s not too late to sign up for the Assembly in Budapest, and if you want to get involved in other ways, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

(Newly) Dr Karin Purshouse is an Academic Foundation Doctor in Oxford, and former chair of the BMA’s Medical Students Committee. 

Related Posts:

Paul Wicks from PatientsLikeMe on why Open Access is also for patients.

Jessie McGowan on why Open Access is for those writing clinical practice guidelines

Virginia Barbour on why Open Access is for everyone

  1. Clinicians in low-income countries have a very difficult time maintaining and advancing their knowledge and skills. Without access to current data, opinions and techniques it is next to impossible.

    Journal subscriptions are prohibitively expensive for these clinicians. Limiting access to the literature imits the care they can provide for their patients.

    There are many NGOs trying to facilitate CME, but for the clinicians and patients in low-income countries, open-access would be a life-saving revelation.

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