Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Petition to free up access to the Cochrane Library

Last month, the EU Alliance for the Dissemination of Evidence launched a petition to the European Commission, asking it to subsidize free online access for the Cochrane Library, at least within Europe.  From the text:

We, the undersigned, petition the European Commission to finance EU Provision to the Cochrane Library free of charge for all citizens of the Member States of the European Union.

Independent and reliable information on the effectiveness of treatment options is vital if health care professionals, policy makers and patients are to make sound healthcare decisions.

The Cochrane Library is an electronic database that is updated four times a year and contains the world’s leading collection of comprehensive, up-to-date, independently reviewed, reliable information on effects of health technologies, whether these be drugs, surgical interventions or alternative medicines. The information is made available in the form of transparent high quality systematic reviews. Currently, the Cochrane Library contains more than 3,000 systematic reviews.

The Cochrane Library is produced by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international, independent, not-for-profit organization of more than 15,000 dedicated volunteers (health professionals, researchers and patients) whose aim is to improve healthcare decision-making globally, by producing systematic reviews of the evidence about the effects of healthcare interventions. As each review has a plain language summary, lay people are also able to benefit from the empowering information contained in the Cochrane Library....

Update. The petition essentially calls on the EU to pay Wiley to provide EU-wide access for research largely produced by public funding. Ben Toth has given me permission to post his reservations about the petition.  Toth is the Director of Health Perspectives and former Director of the NHS National Knowledge Service.

At a time when the debate is moving decisively towards open access this petition is a missed opportunity, especially as the EU is supportive of Open Access.

It would have been more useful to petition the EU to support the Collaboration in exploring how it can make the transition to open access publishing. The Collaboration doesn't publish figures for the amount of direct and indirect public subsidy it receives, but it's probably at least 95% of its income. In such circumstances all the arguments about open access to research findings apply to Cochrane Reviews.