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  • Right to Research Video

    Today, we’re excited to announce a Right to Research Coalition video interview with Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the US National Institutes of Health, and Jack Andraka, the 16-year-old inventor of a breakthrough cancer diagnostic, discussing the importance of Open Access.

    Click here to watch the video interview

    Click here to read our announcement

    Jack used free online articles “religiously” in creating his pancreatic diagnostic that is 26,667 times cheaper, 168 times faster, and 400 times more sensitive than the current test. In discussing his discovery, Jack points to paywalls for journal articles as a central barrier preventing others from making similar breakthroughs.

    Jack is a perfect example of the increased innovation that arises from unexpected places when anyone with curiosity, determination, and an Internet connection has Open Access to the research literature.

    Are you interested in working on Open Access issues with AMSA? Email pff@amsa.org for ways to get involved.

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  • Keep the library open after graduation

    At graduations across the country, students are walking across the stage, receiving their diplomas and beginning the next chapter of their lives. These graduates are equipped with a wealth of new tools. However, nearly all are forced to leave behind one of the most important: their library card.

    Students’ library cards are a passport to the specialized knowledge found in academic journal articles — covering medicine and math, computer science and chemistry, and many other fields. These articles contain the cutting edge of our understanding and capture the genius of what has come before. In no uncertain terms, access to journals provides critical knowledge and an up-to-date education for tomorrow’s doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

    But should that access cease at graduation? .....

    Read the rest of the opinion-editorial that appeared in the Washington Post (6/7/12) authored by AMSA National President Elizabeth Wiley, MD, JD, MPH and Matt Cooper, president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.

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  • President Obama: Make Publicly Funded Research Free, Available

    Christopher A. Hesh
    University of Maryland School of Medicine c/o 2015
    Co-President of UMD AMSA

    Barriers to healthcare access manifest in many forms and AMSA stands at the forefront of the fight to tear down these barriers in the effort to establish healthcare as a human right. Integral to this fight for access is the engine that drives discovery of healthcare delivery methods and new treatment programs: taxpayer-funded research.

    The American public spends $60 billion each year on non-defense research through government programs like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE). [1] Accessing this research can cost anywhere from $15 to $32 for a single article to multi-thousand dollar subscription fees for a single journal, forcing taxpayers to pay twice: once to fund the research and again to see the results. [2] This necessity of paying multiple times for access to life-saving research furthermore serves as a direct barrier to healthcare access for patients, who rely on their physicians to provide them with timely treatment programs informed by federally-funded research.

    We know from the success of the NIH Public Access Policy, which requires all NIH-funded research to be open-access 12 months after publication, that the scientific community is a powerful instrument of change. Indeed, the Public Access Policy has proven an invaluable step in the fight toward complete open access. The NIH, however, is not the only federal agency responsible for medical research grants. Furthermore, recently introduced bills such as the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) have targeted open-access in an attempt to not only roll back the NIH’s public access policy, but completely prohibit open-access mandates for federally funded research altogether. The Research Works Act was eventually pulled by its legislative sponsors in response to overwhelming opposition by patients, students and taxpayers, but the fight for open access is not over.

    AMSA believes the continued attack on open-access research equates to an attack on healthcare access. In response, we’re joining a coalition of individuals and organizations including the Public Library of Science and Wikimedia Foundation, along with over 20,000 current signatories, in supporting a ‘We The People’ petition urging President Obama sign a directive to require free, timely access over the internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. Help us reach this goal by signing the petition, and spread the word so that we can reach our target of 25,000 signatures by June 19th.

    Sign the petition!

    [1] Bennof, Richard J. Proposed Federal R&D Funding for FY 2011 Dips to $143 Billion, with Cuts in National Defense R&D. InfoBrief. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation, September 2010. Available at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf10327/nsf10327.pdf

    [2] Examples of single article purchase prices come from the New England Journal of Medicine ($15 at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1111961) and from The Lancet ($31.50 at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2961625-5/fulltext).

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  • FRPAA Day of Action Tomorrow

    On April 25th, the Right to Research Coalition will host a Day of Action in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which would revolutionize students’ access to scholarly research by requiring that all federally-funded research be made openly available to the public. Students are encouraged to write op-eds and letters to the editor for publication in their local and campus newspapers, and write their legislators encouraging them to support and co-sponsor the bill. Students have already made a real impact, helping to secure a number of FRPAA’s 26 new co-sponsors, and April 25th will serve as a springboard to amplify student influence and help make FRPAA a reality.

    For additional background information on the legislation or how you can participate, see the FRPAA call to action.

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  • Free Access to NEJM Archives

    The New England Journal of Medicine has announced that for a limited time they are opening the NEJM Archive to everyone! The NEJM Archive dates from1812-1989 and contains some of the most important medical breakthroughs in history- from the first use of ether anesthesia to the first reports of patients with AIDS.

    The archives will be free until June 30th! Through this limited time offer, you'll gain access to thousands of issues, articles, and images. Archive content is regularly $15 per article.

    Follow this free access link.

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  • 6 Reasons Open Access Matters to the Medical Community

    Tim Anderson
    Case Western Reserve University, MS3
    These days there is continuous discussion on ways to improve the efficiency, quality, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare. I would argue that one of the most neglected and important ways to improve our healthcare delivery and innovation is by opening access to research. "Open Access" is the free, immediate, unrestricted availability of high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship over the Internet - combined with the rights to use this information to its fullest possible extent.

    So as a future physician why does open access matter to you? Here are 6 good reasons....

    1. Education
    Ever start searching for resources to write a paper, find the perfect article online, only to click on the link and find your school does not subscribe to that journal? Even then, perhaps you thought about purchasing the article only to find that it would cost $15, more than a month's subscription to most journals. This happened to me yesterday on my internal medicine rotation. I had a patient who had developed gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding but was on medications to thin his blood due to heart problems. This is a risky but very common medical situation. So I began looking up papers on the topic as the management is very controversial. I found the perfect paper which looked at outcomes of stopping vs. continuing blood thinners after a GI bleed, it just been published 1 month ago, and in fact the authors are faculty at my medical school...and yet I was unable to access the article.

    The gap in access to up-to-date information diminishes our ability as students to educate ourselves. Furthermore, this gap in access is likely to grow. In the current era of budget cuts at public universities and hospitals expensive journal subscriptions make an attractive target of cost savings. So where does this leave student education? With an even larger gap in access, the majority of students will be unable to fully access information crucial to our education.

    2. Patient Care
    Let's go back to that article I found yesterday and my patient with GI bleeding. I was not the only person unable to access the article, my attending physician could not access the paper either, thus we lacked the most up-to-date information on how to manage our patient. Either we could stop the blood thinners which will decrease the patient's chance of bleeding but puts him at an increased risk for a clot and heart attack or we could continue the blood thinners and risk him bleeding into shock. This is not a trivial decision and this topic is the focus of very active medical research, so why are we forced to wait 12 months or longer until our institution has access to this information?

    This gap in information access is even larger in private practice where doctors often only subscribe to a handful of journals due to cost restrictions. This problem magnifies once again in the setting of community health clinic or rural areas and this information disparity is likely to contribute to the health disparities in these areas.

    3. Innovation
    So imagine being the authors of this paper on GI bleeding. Do you think they want others to read their article? Of course! Research authors really really want us to read the work they produce. Researchers do not benefit from publishing unless articles are read. There is not even a financial benefit to researchers when you buy expensive journal subscriptions or that $15 article cost. Research thrives on the sharing of ideas and research careers are made by publishing widely read articles that inspire other people research or change the way we practice healthcare. For the author the goal of publishing an article is to move patient care or medical innovation forward, not to have a list of unread articles serving as bullet points on a resume. Increasing open access to research allows for a free exchange of ideas serving both the goals of the researcher and the benefit of students and patients.

    4. Patient's Rights

    Of course, medical students and physicians are not the only ones who benefit from access to research. Patients and their advocates also deserve access to the corpus of medical research. Imagine you are the spouse of my patient with a GI bleed, what's the first thing you would do when the doctor told you what was wrong? You'd want to learn more about it. These days if you don't have a nurse or doctor in the family to query you turn to Google, but you'll almost certainly find yourself unable to access the vast majority of journals without a subscription. So what are your alternatives? Wikipedia? Yahoo Answers? Wrongdiagnosis.com? None of these sources provide reliable information to patients. In fact, I would argue these resources only increase the duress of patients and families by providing views often contradict the information provided by the doctor without providing an evidence base. However, their doctors, who would like to provide them with accurate information sources are also hand tied by the lack of open access.

    5. Global Health Equity
    Taking another step back, now outside of the microcosm of the American hospital filled with doctors, patients, medical students, and researchers. If you think access to up to date research is difficult to come by in a rural community health clinic, try going to Kenya. Even physicians who work at academic institutions are faced with small budgets and an increased medical demand, making thousands of dollars of journal subscriptions completely unfeasible. Open access to research would be another step towards reducing steep health disparities in developing countries.

    On the sunny coast of Kenya researchers at my medical school work with Kenyan doctors to study malaria and HIV transmission and prevention. The vast majority of research on these diseases of the developing world is published in American or European journals, despite the fact that the findings primarily impact people in developing countries. The steep price barriers of these journals prevent physicians in countries like Kenya from accessing this research, even when the research subjects are sometimes their own patients! Rather than having an immediate impact on patient care, the cost barriers of current system means that evidenced-based practice may take years to become the standard in countries without access to information.

    A quick aside....
    So at this point, you are hopefully thinking these are a fairly strong arguments for opening access to research but there must be some reason this system is in place, right? Well, some journals argue that high prices are necessary to cover journal costs. But guess what, the journal industry has some of the highest profit margins of any business in the world, much higher than other book publishers:

    What's even more startling is how the research review process works.
    Step 1: Researchers submit their articles to journals, often paying a fee to the journal for submission.
    Step 2: Journals get other researchers to review articles for free as a matter of prestige
    Step 3: When a journal accepts an article for publication it generally claims all future publishing rights on the article...
    Step 4: The journal pays for the costs of formatting, print publishing, and so forth. Costs which are uniformly decreasing as publishing switches from print to online formats.
    Step 5: The journal now accrues all of the profits from these articles via subscriptions or individual article purchases
    Given that both the supplier and the purchaser pay a fee to the journals, and the reviewing work is often done for free you can imagine why profits are so high....

    6. Public Investment
    Here is your icing on the cake...guess who paid for all of this research in the first place? You did! The vast majority of medical research is funded by the National Institutes of Health a federal organization funded by you, the tax payer. Why do we invest our public dollars in research? To improve patient care and medical innovation of course, an outcome that only happens with students, physicians, researchers, and patients having open access to research.

    Take your pick, however you choose there is a reason to support open access to research....so what can you do about it?

    April 7, 2011 will mark the third anniversary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) public access policy, the first open access policy enacted by the Federal Government; it has delivered free and open access to over 2 million full-text articles in just three years by requiring all the publications of all researchers supported by NIH be made open access within 1 year after publication. As a result, PubMed Central sees nearly 500,000 unique users every day and has served as an invaluable resource for medical students, physicians, and researchers. However, this policy still delays access to research by a year and does not include other federal funding agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control or the non-medical research arms of the federal government.

    This milestone is a critical opportunity for students to join other public access advocates in pressing for the expansion of the successful NIH policy to other federal agencies. Please join students and researchers across the country in calling on key policy makers to take advantage of this occasion by sending emails to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health. Learn more about how to write to these leaders

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  • Publishers withdraw 2,500 journals from free access scheme in Bangladesh

    By Sae-Rom Chae
    AMSA Global Health Action Committee, National Chair


    For years, AMSA Global has supported the open access movement as an integral part of improving the world's health by giving practitioners and academics in poor countries access to the latest medical knowledge in leading biomedical and public health journals. Through AMSA’s membership in the Right to Research coalition, an international alliance of 31 graduate and undergraduate student organizations, AMSA advocates for more progressive principles of scholarship dissemination.

    On January 4, 2011, 5 major publishers withdrew over 2500 health and biomedical online journals from institutions in Bangladesh, resulting in compromised or no access for scientists and researchers. These journals were made available through the World Health Organization's Health Inter-Network for Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) programme, an initiative founded in 2002 to give researchers in poor countries access to leading scientific journals.

    An article in the British Medical Journal on January 11, 2011 reported this move by publishers to be driven by the achievement of "active sales" in the country and consequently drew international criticism from the wider global health community, including many of the editors of the pulled journals. In response, many of the publishers have begun to rescind their decision and reinstate access in Bangladesh.

    However, the situation in Bangladesh is not an uncommon occurrence and this event, once again, underscores the need to address the information access problem in our world with a sustainable and long-term solution. The publishing scheme in which scientific breakthroughs are reported and disseminated must be radically changed in order to reach those who may need this knowledge the most.

    According to Dr. Laura Janneck, an AMSA Global alumnus and active advocate for the open access movement, “One of the areas in which open access can make a substantial impact is in the field of international medicine and public health. It is the nature of medical science that what is applicable in one corner of the globe is applicable anywhere.”

    She continues, “In response to this outrage, most of the publishers have begun to reverse their decision and reinstate access to their journals in Bangladesh. Despite this small success thanks to the vigilance of the global health community, the underlying issue is far from resolved. Many international scholars have taken this as a wake-up call to push forward the open access movement. They recognize that HINARI is not a sustainable solution to the information access problem. This will hasten the call for all who publish research to publish in open access journals, and for the global health community to revolutionize the way academic information is published. Producers and consumers of academic research must work together toward long-term open access solutions. Only then will producers of research be able to ensure that their work is disseminated, and consumers will be able to utilize the fruits of their labors to heal the world’s destitute sick.”

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