Kim West, from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), discusses open access and its benefits for global health research.
Access to research evidence is essential for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health staff to be able to make the best-informed decisions in field programmes. MSF has a central library service, but emailing requests for articles across timezones does not provide quick answers when these are needed. Open access publishing is the best solution to this predicament.
Likewise, the research that MSF conducts should be accessible by the populations where MSF works – the vast majority of which are in low or middle income countries affected by conflict, natural disaster or lack of access to health care.
Access to research evidence is essential for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health staff to be able to make the best-informed decisions in field programmes.
A popular choice
MSF recognises this need and an analysis of MSF research publications showed that open access journals are the most popular choice for our organisation. In addition, we have an open repository that contains over 1800 MSF-authored studies, protocols and research resources.
With publishers’ permission, all MSF authored articles are deposited here either at publication or after an embargo period. We have also received many requests and comments from people who have accessed our study protocols online.
To help keep MSF field staff (and anyone interested in global health research) up to date, we produce a weekly roundup of relevant global health articles by MSF and non-MSF authors. We also highlight these on our Twitter account @MSFsci. We use the global reach of Twitter to help engage our field teams in other ways, most notably by our monthly Twitter journal clubs.
Our teams on the ground can share experiences with authors and experts around the world.
Removing the confines of a traditional classroom environment means our teams on the ground can share experiences with authors and experts around the world. This model is mutually beneficial to everyone. The discussions could have implications on practice in our programmes and authors can understand challenges in real-world implementation of their findings from our staff.
Continuing with this theme of access to research we run an annual ‘conference without borders’. The MSF Scientific Days are a platform to present the best medical and innovation evidence from across MSF.
We have streamed the event online for the past four years and in 2015 over 5000 people participated from 115 countries; a huge increase from the 300 person audience who previously attended, most of whom were based in the UK. The event is free to access and all the presentations and talks are archived open access.
The digital revolution means our field teams can ask questions to the presenters directly, and this perspective is invaluable. Next year we will have events in London, Johannesburg and New Delhi that will link regional and international audiences – we hope you can join us!