Scientists speak up for Open Access

As we continue to celebrate Open Access week at Communications Biology, in addition to our previous post, we speak to two more authors of some of our most accessed articles including one of our new editorial board members, whose research across Africa directly benefits from Open Access.

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Here at Communications Biology, we continue to celebrate Open Access week by highlighting some of our most-accessed articles. We’ve asked the authors of two highly-downloaded and –cited articles about the importance of publishing open access, both to researchers and the wider public.

Spreading awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean

Dr Sasha Tetu is a Researcher and Senior Lecturer for the Department of Molecular Sciences and the Biomolecular Discovery Research Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She published the article ‘Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria'  in May last year and it received one of the highest number of downloads of all articles published by Communications Biology with over 38,000 accesses.

Dr Tetu is interested in how common pollutants, particularly plastics, affect important photosynthetic marine bacteria in order to understand the potential impacts of pollution on the health of coastal and open ocean ecosystems. Photosynthetic bacteria are key primary producers in the ocean, yet are generally superficially considered in pollution impact assessments.

My colleagues and I were encouraged by the attention our research generated among the general public and wider scientific community, aided by the accessibility that comes with Open Access. - Sasha Tetu

With respect to the advantages of Open Access publishing, Dr Tetu says:

“My colleagues and I were encouraged by the attention our research generated among the general public and wider scientific community, aided by the accessibility that comes with Open Access.  Because general interest in microorganisms is often limited to situations where they are considered ‘bad guys’, we were pleasantly surprised by this widespread interest! I hope the interest in our work helps convey the message that microorganisms are also fundamental to ecosystem health and need to be considered to understand the full extent to which environmental challenges, such as plastic pollution, may affect our planet

I can remember the experience of searching the library stacks for journal articles when researching a new project, which was the only option when I began my undergraduate degree.  It is amazing to consider the ease with which I can now undertake this task anywhere with reasonable internet connectivity. However, I would have to say that being able to work on my laptop at home at any time of night and day is not always appreciated by my 8- and 10-year-old children!”

Open Access in the developing world

Whilst Open Access publishing benefits researchers worldwide, including those who would normally have access to subscription journals through their institutes, perhaps the biggest boosts from Open Access publishing are achieved in developing parts of the world.

One of our newest Editorial Board Members, Dr Leena Tripathi, is currently a Principal Scientist leading the transgenic and genome editing research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)-Kenya. She is also the Deputy Director of the Eastern Africa Hub and Country Representative of IITA in Kenya. Dr Tripathi also provides science leadership as a faculty member of various institutions such as Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, and Support Leader for CGIAR Research Program for Root, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB). She is the corresponding author for the article ‘CRISPR/Cas9 editing of endogenous banana streak virus in the B genome of Musa spp. overcomes a major challenge in banana breeding’ which was published last year in Communications Biology and has since been downloaded 12,000 times, and has been tweeted about almost 250 times! 

Open Access publications make scientific discovery faster and more relevant for resource-poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere. – Leena Tripathi

CREDIT:PHOTODISC

Dr Tripathi’s research focuses on the genetic improvement of important staple food crops to control diseases and pests to enhance their production. Her focus is on ‘Science to Practice’, linking scientific innovations to practical applications to solve food production issues worldwide to improve the food security and well-being of resource-poor farmers and growers.

Dr Tripathi’s team has pioneered the genetic engineering of banana in Africa to confer resistance to the deadly bacterial Xanthomonas wilt disease, threatening banana production and the livelihoods of smallholder growers in East Africa. The improved transgenic bananas are under confined field trials in Kenya and Uganda and are close to being released to farmers. On the release of GM banana for commercialization, the expected aggregate benefits across the target countries in East Africa will range from $20 million to $953 million, highest in countries where disease incidence and production losses are high, ranging from 51% to 83% of production. Her team has expanded this transgenic technology to Enset, a staple food crop in Ethiopia.

 More readers can become aware of authors who publish in Open Access journals as opposed to subscription-only journals. Institutions can also enhance their profile through the Open Access article. As an example, our paper published in Communication Biology was accessed by more than 12,000 researchers in two years. - Leena Tripathi

With respect to the benefits of Open Access publishing, Dr Tripathi says,

“Publishing in Open Access is an excellent way to disseminate research studies to many researchers and academicians of the developing and underdeveloped countries who cannot pay for access to a high-quality research article. More readers can become aware of authors who publish in Open Access journals as opposed to subscription-only journals. Institutions can also enhance their profile through the Open Access article. As an example, our paper published in Communication Biology was accessed by more than 12,000 researchers in two years.

I am a Principal Scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a CGIAR center. We need to follow the CGIAR Open Access Policy. Publishing in Open Access enables compliance with an increasing number of donor policies (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Open Access Policy, USAID Open Data Policy). It also empowers researchers to improve efficiencies and enhance innovation and impact in an era of complex and large data sets. Several funding agencies supporting the research can achieve more prominence through Open Access”.

Dr Tripathi also highlighted how Open Access publishing has impacted her own research and helped to advance her career: “Open Access publications are highly helpful for my research activities for planning and exploring new research every day. Open Access has enhanced the visibility, accessibility, and impact of my research and development activities and improves the speed, efficiency, and efficacy of the research. I am just one click away from advanced science-related publications with open access publications without any financial burden on my publicly funded research. Open Access publications make scientific discovery faster and more relevant for resource-poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere. Open Access articles have provided publicity for my research, which, in return, have increased my connections and funding for my research.”

 

We thank Dr Tetu and Dr Tripathi for their amazing contributions and we extend this thanks to all of the authors who publish Open Access with Communications Biology. We will continue to publish high-quality research, reviews and commentaries, which are freely available worldwide, and we look forward to seeing where this takes biological research in all contexts!

 

Karli Montague-Cardoso

Associate Editor, Springer Nature

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