Fight Against Cancer
Cancer continues to cast a long and daunting shadow, claiming over 10 million lives annually and imposing a staggering economic burden of $21 billion on patients and their families . In response to this formidable challenge, the White House has injected hope into the battle against cancer with a $240 million investment in the revitalized Cancer Moonshot initiative. This ambitious endeavor seeks to halve the cancer death rate within the next 25 years . However, beyond funding and policy, the accessibility of scientific research plays a pivotal role in accelerating breakthroughs.
The Call for Open Science
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has taken a significant step by mandating that all federally funded published research be freely available, without delays or subscription paywalls . This move, rooted in the principles of Open Science, aims to facilitate collaboration, speed up innovation, and pave the way for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s goals .
Open Science’s Track Record
The success of Open Science is evident in the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. By making all research and data openly accessible, scientists worldwide collaborated seamlessly, leading to groundbreaking solutions in record time . This prompts us to ask: Shouldn’t we apply the same principles to cancer research, especially with advanced technologies allowing us to connect vast datasets?
Challenges in Scientific Publishing
Despite the benefits of Open Science, scientific publishing relies heavily on paywalled access, with more than half of the world’s research locked behind expensive subscriptions . The $27 billion scientific publishing industry, dominated by a few entities, has been slow to embrace change . Without a shift towards Open Science, monumental achievements like COVID-19 vaccines may remain exceptions, and progress in cancer research may be unnecessarily delayed.
The Taxpayer Dilemma
A critical issue arises when publicly funded research is hidden behind paywalls. Taxpayers, who contribute $5 billion annually to cancer research , are effectively forced to pay again to access the outcomes of their investment. This creates a barrier for scientists not affiliated with affluent institutions and contradicts the principle that publicly funded research should be freely available to the public.
Embracing Open Science for a Better Future
In the pursuit of a cure for cancer and addressing other global challenges, Open Science emerges as a promising solution. Leading organizations like NASA and international entities such as the United Nations are championing Open Science practices . It’s time for science policymakers, funders, and publishers to mandate and transition swiftly to Open Science models, aligning with the urgency of the Cancer Moonshot’s mission.
The road to realizing the Cancer Moonshot’s goals is undoubtedly challenging. However, with the potential to save 10 million lives each year, the adoption of Open Science can be a transformative force. Mandating Open Science, transitioning publishing models, and codifying guidelines into federal law are essential steps toward ensuring that the fruits of scientific research are accessible to all.