The Case For Open Access

Bart GJ Knols | Xindex | August 30, 2012

In many parts of the world, malaria continues to kill millions — yet experts are still denied access to vital research. Bart Knols reports

For most of us, it’s entirely logical that medical practitioners should be familiar with the latest scientific knowledge and evidence-based practices in order to treat ailments. This forms our fundamental basis of trust in medical professionals. If your doctor suggests a CT scan or drug X, you follow that advice on the basis of trust. So how would you feel if your doctor confesses that he lacks the latest scientific information about your condition? That he can prescribe a drug but is not sure if it is the best treatment? Before long you would be consulting someone else. But what if you live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the vast majority of medical personnel, as well as scientists, researchers and medical students, remain badly deprived of the latest medical developments? Not because they lack access to the internet, but simply because they cannot afford to pay for access to information. This is the harsh reality today. Subscription paywalls make access to essential information impossible.

The malaria industry

Malaria kills between 0.7 and 1.2 million people annually, mostly young children and pregnant women in Africa. Today, more than 800 million people live without the fear of malaria in countries where the risk of contracting the disease was once significant. This shows that it can be eliminated, perhaps even globally as happened with smallpox. But in the tropics, where malaria still reigns, nature remains way ahead of our efforts: parasites constantly evolve and develop resistance to curative drugs and mosquitoes do the same, making our meagre armature of insecticidal sprays laughable...