In this manuscript, we present an analysis of open access (OA) rates of papers concerning COVID-19 and other important human diseases, whose results helped develop an evidence-based scalable strategy aimed at increasing the full and timely access to medical literature. We show that COVID-19 papers are much more openly available (OA rate of 89.5%) than those concerning the four most recent viral outbreaks (Avian influenza, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Swine influenza; OA rates (from 26.2% to 51.3%) and the ten non COVID-19 disease categories responsible for the highest number of deaths worldwide (OA rates from 44.0% for Maternal and neonatal disorders to 58.9% for Respiratory infections and tuberculosis). This evidence confronts us with an inevitable question: how can we bridge the gap between OA rates for COVID-19 and other high-impact human diseases? Based on empirical data and projections, we show that it is possible to increase substantially immediate OA to publicly-funded research and complement more demanding initiatives for access to medical literature in developing countries working on the sharing of post-prints at individual, group and multi stakeholder partnership level. However, to make our plan effective in bringing us closer to the health information for all goal a more widespread culture of cooperation is fundamental. We argue that the lesson taught by COVID-19 is a unique opportunity to raise awareness among researchers and stakeholders about the importance of open science for human health and to demonstrate that a real change is now possible.
Collection : COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv