Open Science can save the planet | Kamila MARKRAM | TEDxBrussels

Translator: Elise LECAMP
Reviewer: Denise RQ We live in exceptional times. There have never been more scientists
on this planet than today, and they are making
scientific breakthroughs at an exponential rate. Every year, the world spends
2.3 trillion US dollars to fund 8 million scientists. We do all of this so we can live longer,
healthier, and more prosperous lives. Every year, the scientists write
two million scientific articles where they report their results. This sounds all great, doesn’t it? But there is a problem here
that few are aware of, but that deeply affects all of us. The problem is that 90%
of these scientific results are locked up behind expensive paywalls. Cures to diseases, clean energy solutions
are just not widely accessible. You, the tax-payers,
have paid for this research and yet, you can not access it. The doctor who’s treating you today
does not have access to the latest medical studies, and worse, even many scientists
can’t read these articles because many universities actually can’t afford to pay
all the subscription fees to all the scientific journals out there. Imagine: from you tax-payers money, you pay for the highways in your country. And then imagine
a company would come along and put up a toll gate
and charge you so much money that only the richest cars
can afford to use this highway. We would never allow this
to happen on our roads, would we? But then why, Why are we allowing this to happen
to our scientific knowledge? The gate keeper, the subscription journal system
justifies itself by saying that they are allowing
only the highest impact studies, the best research to pass through. But studies have shown as well
trying to predict impact is like gambling and a serious side effect
of the selection process is that many valid studies
get at first rejected and are bounced around
from journal to journal until they finally do get published. It happens even to the best research. Take for example this article on graphene. It was rejected twice and took
at least one year to get published. And then, in 2010, this article went on to win
the Nobel Prize in Physics. The scale of the problem
is actually massive. Of the 2 million science articles
that are published every year, at least 1 million valid research articles
are first rejected and bounced. Just one bounce delays the publication
by at least six months. And that means the total delay
introduced to publish valid research is at least 500,000 years every single year. It also means that researchers
waste at least 100 million hours in resubmitting their research article
to another journal, at a cost of 10 billion
dollars every year. Just imagine if researchers would use
this amount of time and money to find a solution for cancer,
Alzheimer’s disease, or climate change. The good news is there is an extremely simple
solution out there today, and it’s called open science. In open science, everybody in the world has the right to access the latest research articles
and the data for free. In a closed subscription model,
universities pay publishers so that their scientists
can read the articles. In the new open science model,
universities also pay publishers, but this time, to process all the valid
research articles, and then everybody can read for free. And ironically, it costs
much less to process articles so universities could actually save
six billion dollars every year to do more research. The closed subscription system comes from these few best articles
and introduces these massive delays. The new open science model
takes on the responsibility to publish all valid research articles and instead focuses on optimizing
efficiency and quality control. And if we were to adopt
open science universally, we could completely eliminate
those 500,000 years of delay. As a neuroscientist,
I saw these problems first-hand. Together with my husband Henry,
who’s also a neuroscientist, we decided to do something about this. So nine years ago, we started “Frontiers” which is an open science platform, and today one of the largest
open access publishers in the world. Because we commit ourselves to publish
all the valid science out there, the biggest challenge
that we actually face is the following: how do you process
large amounts of articles efficiently and at the highest quality possible? Publishing is not the only industry that faces this type of quality
at scale challenge. Take for example air-traffic control. Here, the worst case scenario
is a plane crash, very obviously. [Inaudible] would translate it
publishing a bad article. The second worst case scenario
is grounded planes. [Inaudible] would mean that articles
would get delayed in the pipeline. So then how do you fly
many planes safely? The first thing that you need to fly
safely is the very best pilots. So Frontiers has only leading
researchers running the journals, currently 70,000 scientists
from all the top universities: Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford,
Stanford, and so forth. Their role is to peer-review
and quality control the articles. Their role is not to select for impact. For that, we’ve actually built
online technology that measures the readership
and the impact of the articles objectively online. And because we do not try
to predict impact which is highly debatable, we can also be completely transparent. So we publish the names
of the people who judge the articles, and we link them to online profiles so that everybody in the world can see who reviewed, edited,
and authored the articles. That type of transparency has never been
done before in publishing, and it introduces
a chain of accountability. The next thing you need to fly safely is standard operating procedures at each stage of the flight and the very best technology
to enable your pilots. Frontiers has built an online review forum where reviewers and authors
can interact with each other. We’ve automated all the quality checks,
and we’ve built an online cockpit so that editors are actually alerted to tasks and quality checks
that require their attention, while in the background, thousands of work flows guide
the articles through the pipeline. Does this model work? Yes, it does. Very occasionally, a bad paper may slip through
because no system or human is foolproof, but we actually use these occasions to improve or operating procedures
and the quality checks. Overall, open science
works extremely well. I’m going to illustrate this
on two examples: “Frontiers” and the Public Library Of Science
also called PLOS which is one of the very first
open science pioneers. The success of open science can
be measured through quality and impact. We’re going to start
looking at quality first. Here is what you can do: you can compare the citation rates
of journals to each other. When you do that, you’ll find that open access journals
are amongst the top most cited journals in the world. Take for example PLOS ONE. This is a multi-disciplinary
open access journal which was started
at the National Institutes of Health about ten years ago, and within record time, this became the largest journal
in the world. PLOS ONE articles
receive as many citations as three of the world’s oldest and
most famous science journals combined. Let’s look at “Frontiers.” “Frontiers” publishes the two most cited
psychology journals in the world, the most cited neuroscience
publishing program, and the second most cited
physiology journal in the world. Quality obviously works. Let’s look at readership impact. The 60,000 articles published so far, received more than 250 million views
from all over the world; massively in Europe and the US,
India, Latin America, and most strikingly, some of the most reading areas
are economic hubs because we are today
in the fourth industrial revolution. Most companies today weather they are small or big alike, they all depend on technological
and scientific innovation to survive and to thrive. Today’s economy is a knowledge economy. In this context, having efficient and open access
to the latest science is important not just for the innovation cycle
but for economic growth as well. The best example to illustrate this
is actually the Human Genome Project. Here, at first, there were
serious attempts to patent genes as well as lock them away
behind expensive subscription paywalls. But luckily for all of us, it was decided to make
the Human Genome an open resource. The impact of that has been enormous. The Open Gene Databases
have been use by geneticists to design the first gene-editing
therapies for cancer. And for every dollar invested,
145 dollars were made in return. The Human Genome Project
catalyzed the entire biotech industry which today is an industry
worth hundreds of billions of dollars every single year. So then, why do we need open science so urgently? Why now? What makes me
get out of bed every morning and build an open science platform
like “Frontiers” is actually very simple: I want my children to live
on a healthy planet, a planet where bees and frogs
are not just things that you see in the Natural History Museum. We are out of time
to debate climate change. We have to be implementing
those solutions right now. For that, we need access
to our latest science results. Over the past ten years, a range of remarkable pioneers research institutions,
funders, policy makers, all brought to life open science. But the reality is that still today, 90% of our latest science results
remain locked up. And if they remain locked up and delayed, those solutions may just not come in time. So just imagine if we had full access
to our latest science how that would accelerate
innovation, economic growth, and all the solutions that we need
for a sustainable future. There have never been more scientists
on this planet than today. they’ve never had more resources.
they’ve never made more discoveries. We are today in a better position
to solve any type of problem than ever before in human history. And science can bring us clean energy, sustainable cities, and healthy food, and we can make
more money in the process. So yes, we can have it all. Let’s just do it now. Let’s make our science open. Thank you. (Applause)


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