Open access has well-documented benefits to the dissemination of research, thereby speeding up the process of science from abstract research to real-world applications. While exact estimates can vary, a large body of research suggests that open access articles are cited more often and more quickly than articles published in traditional formats. In the health sciences, this is particularly important, as the translation of science from lab research to clinical applications has the potential to improve human health and well-being, and even to save lives. Open access publishing helps break down the barriers to research dissemination and access, thereby improving the chain of communication that connects researchers to health care workers on the front lines. Indeed, medical researchers have long known that there is a disconnect between research and practice, and billions of dollars are wasted globally every year on research that fails to effectively translate into medical policy and practice. When medical research is involved, the pitfalls of traditional scholarly publishing are not just an issue for researchers, because they also affect governments, health care workers, and the health of the public at large.
While some have rightfully criticized the lack of peer review for preprints to potentially cause negative outcomes, such instances have been minimal and swiftly corrected. Indeed, the open nature not only of the articles themselves but also of their criticism is one of the benefits of open access publishing. In fact, according to the Retraction Watch database, at the time of writing, of the 138 articles related to COVID-19 that have been retracted, only 22 are preprints. Bad science can happen anywhere, regardless of the publishing venue, and all researchers need to be vigilant and use their own judgment before acting on any information, especially in the health sciences.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the limitations of traditional scholarly publishing models, and the benefits of open access publishing, have been made clear, especially when lives are at stake. If you are interested in learning more about open access publishing, take a look at our Open Access Library Guide, or contact the Researcher Support Team!