Open science spreads in search for COVID 19 vaccine

Open science spreads in search for COVID 19 vaccine

Open science spreads in search for COVID 19 vaccine


23 Mar 2020

Open science aims to share scientific information almost in real time online and free of charge to the user by providing free access to research publications and open access to scientific data. Open Science increases the quality and impact of science by placing all information in one, easy access area. This can make science more efficient through better sharing of resources, more reliable through better verification and more responsive to society’s needs.

The benefit and positive impact of Open Science is being seen as scientists and publishers are sharing information in order to understand and combat the fast-evolving COVID-19 global pandemic. Data surrounding the biology, epidemiology and clinical characteristics of the COVID-19 have been growing daily, with more than 400 articles listed in PubMed (research paper database) according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ease of sharing means science is working at light speed and researches have already started working on a vaccine. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases said he is “reasonably confident” that a safety study could begin testing it in people within three months. If this happens it would be the fastest on record.

In the case of SARS it took 20 months from getting the genome of the virus to the first tests of a vaccine in people. During the SARS epidemic, only basic infrastructure for sharing existed, so today, in the case of COVID-19 we are seeing for the first time scientists sharing their data at a rapid pace in real time, as well as a real coming together of the scientific community.

Scientific publishers are taking the unprecedented step of making articles and studies on coronaviruses free to access. Wiley, Springer Nature and Elsevier have all temporarily dropped their paywalls and signed onto the Wellcome Trust's pledge to share research data and findings relevant to COVID-19. In an interview on CGTN Europe, a spokesperson for Wiley said  "We made research related to the coronavirus freely available because it is the right thing to do.”

GenBank, an open-access data repository, and the China National Genomics Data Centre are leading the way in sharing data. This allowed Fudan University in Shanghai, who were the first to develop a diagnosis kit for the DNA of coronavirus, to place the diagnosis kit in GenBank. Researchers around the world immediately started analyzing it to develop diagnostics. This open data access is allowing scientists to decode the mystery of the virus and find a treatment or vaccine.

EOSC and global challenges

Open science is vital to tackling the world’s big challenges. But the concept has not been as simple as making every research finding available to anyone for any purpose. When information can be misused, skewed or misinterpreted at the global level so quickly, we also need scientists and the public to treat open science with great care and responsibility. Without care and responsibility, there is a danger that open science can contribute to the spread of misinformation.

The European Union is carefully developing the EOSC (European Open Science Cloud). The goal of EOSC is to open up all scientific data and publications and combine the results to drive new discoveries and tackle key societal challenges. EOSC is an ideal tool to respond to public emergencies such as the COVID-19 virus by opening up scientific data on the virus and sharing live on-the-ground data on the spread of the virus.

There is an international movement to tackle the COVID19 virus with scientists all over the world racing to find a vaccine and sharing all types of information with one another to enable this and to solve this pressing issue.