Another step forward in making scientific data available for everyone

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I’ve long believed that enhancing the flow of data — and finding new ways to use it — can transform global health in ways we’ve only dreamed. But we must act with urgency because open data access can speed the development of transformative drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics and save millions of lives.

That’s why I’m excited to share the news that the Gates Foundation has taken another step toward expanding timely access to scientific research with the launch of the Gates Open Research publishing portal.

Two years ago, the foundation made a strong institutional commitment to open access publishing and open data sharing, joining other major public and private funders of scientific research. On January 1, 2017, our open access policy came into full operation, and we have made considerable progress in the past few months in forging bilateral partnerships with premier scientific journals — among them The Lancet, AAAS, and NEJM — to ensure that any Gates-funded research published by them is freely and fully available under a creative commons license.

The launch of Gates Open Research provides another platform to accelerate access to biomedical research and — more importantly — the underlying data on which research findings are built. We’re optimistic that this platform can drive positive change in the way researchers share results, validate key findings, stimulate further inquiry, and ultimately deliver lifesaving results.

An article and editorial in this week’s issue of The Economist further highlight the details of Gates Open Research, as well as the essential importance of open access publishing to progress and impact in biomedical research. I encourage you to spend some time reading both pieces — understanding the history of scientific publishing and the opportunities that lie ahead are critical components of how we approach the broader open access discussion.

I am especially proud of what we have achieved thus far, and I believe it could become one of the Gates Foundation’s most powerful legacies. I am also encouraged by the commitment a number of journals are making as they explore new models of accelerating information and data sharing. They are very much an important part of the scientific process.

But we have much more work to do to expand timely access to data and support truly collaborative approaches to scientific research. In a world where challenges continue to outweigh resources, efficient and effective collaborative research models are essential to maximizing the impact of every available dollar, pound, euro, yen, and yuan available for global health R&D.

Next month, I will reconvene with fellow members of the foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee in London to discuss open access and other issues that impact the direction of our programs. (You can learn more about SAC in my recap of last year’s meeting.) I look forward to sharing additional updates after that gathering concludes, though I welcome your feedback and questions on this important topic in the meantime.