Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, December 23, 2005

OA helps respond to disasters

Edward J. Mills, Sharing evidence on humanitarian relief, BMJ, December 24, 2005. An editorial. Excerpt:
One year ago the Asian tsunami struck, resulting in the largest humanitarian efforts of our generation. This year's hurricane Katrina and earthquake in Kashmir also showed that both developed and developing nations are ill prepared for major disasters. Rapidly sharing relevant information from relief agencies and academic and non-government organisations (NGOs) at such critical times can make an important difference to tens of thousands of people....We must, therefore, consider how to create and disseminate evidence regarding humanitarian interventions. One absolute necessity is a publicly accessible, searchable, and comprehensive database on humanitarian disasters and approaches to relief. The lack of systematically documented or disseminated information leads to unnecessary duplication of efforts and ill informed decisions....Some relief databases are already accessible to the public and NGOs. The largest is Relief Web, established in 1996 by the United Nations, but it has been hindered by a lack of submissions from agencies and a reticence by academics to submit reports that may be under review at journals....Academics should submit their relevant manuscripts to databases such as Relief Web. Moreover, we urge journals to submit the full text of all of their public health related articles to Relief Web, a policy which BioMed Central, an open access publisher, has pioneered, and has recently been joined by PLoS Medicine.

Comment. Exactly right. But note that this is just a special case of a more general principle: the more knowledge matters, the more OA to that knowledge matters. Relief information is to disasters what general research literature is the whole range of human problems.