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The World Opens Up



My background is not in science — though eight years here at Genome Technology certainly provides a level of training I never expected — but rather in journalism. Because of that, I have a different perspective when it comes to thinking about the open access movement.

To you, it probably makes sense that a key goal of your research is to get published, because that's the culture of science. You perform great experiments, analyze your data, hope for innovative results, and then write it all up and cross your fingers that Nature or Science will snap it up. Then you move on to a new project. What you may not know is that the reaction of the general public to this cycle is: Huh? Or, more precisely: shouldn't there be a central database where all that data and analysis is deposited — one that would allow researchers to build on advances without wasting time and resources on redundant experiments? Wouldn't there be a real impact in our lives faster if that were the case?

I'm certainly not the first person to imagine such a thing, and the challenge in making it happen isn't a technical one. The problem is that papers can't be put into a central repository for legal reasons — publishers control access to this content, and most of them see releasing it as a threat to their bottom line.

I get that. In journalism, the advent of the Internet has radically changed the way readers and media interact. In consumer news, the subscription-based model has weakened considerably as people expect immediate access to articles, for free. If they can't get it at one website, they move on to one that's more accommodating. Newspapers and magazines have had to adapt quickly to stay relevant to their readers.

Publishers for the scientific community will have to adapt, too. That's the crux of the open access movement, which has been steadily gaining steam and appears to be reaching critical mass. In our cover story, we look at what's good about open access, the challenges that remain, the valid objections that traditional publishers have — and why this really does make a difference for your work.

In the spirit of open access, this issue of Genome Technology is being published under a license from Creative Commons, a group that has been instrumental in helping people find new ways to make data available for reuse. We've chosen what's called the Attribution Share Alike license, which means that any of the content in this issue can be reused and built upon in any way, so long as GT is credited for its contribution and any new creations from it are offered under the same license.

The Scan

Gap in COVAX Doses

BBC News reports that COVAX is experiencing a vaccine shortfall, as the Serum Institute of India has paused exports.

Sanofi, GSK Report Promising Results

The Wall Street Journal reports that the candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline has had encouraging early results.

Influence of Luck

The New York Times examines how the US avoided variant-fueled increases in COVID-19 cases.

PLOS Papers on Retina GWAS, Hantaan Virus, COVID-19 Phenome-Wide Association Study

In PLOS this week: genome-wide association study of retinal morphology, analysis of hantaan virus found in a mouse, and more.