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Should pharmaceutical companies be doing more to advocate open access?

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In an article published in BMJ Opinion, Richard Smith highlights that while many public bodies have mandated open access for the research they fund, the majority of pharmaceutical companies are yet to do so.

Smith, reporting on a meeting held by Open Pharma, notes that although pharmaceutical companies fund approximately half of all biomedical research, they have been less active than public funders in using their influence to promote open access. In fact, Shire and Ipsen are the only pharmaceutical companies to have mandated open access to their research.

Smith notes that the majority of public funders have joined cOAlition S, a consortium in support of Plan S, an initiative that requires all scientific publications, funded by public grants, to be open access from 2020. Smith speculates that pharmaceutical companies may be slow to join cOAlition S because they are heavily regulated and risk averse. He also suggests that pharmaceutical companies might have concerns that mandatory open access could be perceived by regulators as directly promoting products to patients. Additionally, under Plan S, research must be published under a CC-BY license, which allows others to use licensed work for commercial purposes. In Smith’s opinion many journals may not grant such licenses to pharmaceutical companies, for misplaced fear that it will result in a loss of income from the sale of reprints.

Smith concludes by expressing his hope that more pharmaceutical companies will work with public funders in ‘improving the publishing of science’.

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Summary by Debbie Sherwood BSc from Aspire Scientific

With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd


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