The three award recipients of the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP) were announced October 21 in Washington, DC, at the Open Access Week kick-off event hosted by SPARC and the World Bank. ASAP recognizes the use of scientific research, published through open access, that has led to innovations benefiting society. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust, Public Library of Science (PLOS), and Google; ARL and SPARC are also among the program sponsors.
The award recipients, along with the challenges they address and their innovative approaches, include:
Global Collaboration to Fight Malaria (Matthew Todd, PhD): At least one child dies of malaria every minute of every day, mainly in Africa and Asia. According to Matthew Todd, who leads the Open Source Malaria Consortium, given minimal financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments and a high degree of suffering among the affected communities, a large-scale and open collaborative research model provides a solution. Todd turned publicly available data into a global effort to help identify new anti-malaria drugs. He did this by creating an open source collaboration involving scientists, college students, and others from around the world. They use open online laboratory notebooks in which their experimental data is posted each day, enabling instant sharing and the ability to build on others’ findings in almost real time.
“This recognition may help enlist more people into the collaborative effort to fight malaria,” said Matthew Todd. “If we succeed with these efforts, the approach could be extended to fighting other diseases—such as cancer.”
HIV Self-Test Empowers Patients (Nitika Pant Pai, MD, MPH, PhD; Caroline Vadnais; Roni Deli-Houssein; and Sushmita Shivkumar): To increase awareness, knowledge, and access to a convenient HIV-screening option, and to expedite connections to treatment in nations hardest hit by the disease, Nitika Pant Pai and medical staff at McGill University and McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, developed a smartphone application as part of a self-testing strategy that synergized the Internet, an oral fluid–based self-test, and a smartphone. This integrated approach included HIV education, an online test to determine HIV risk level, instructions to self-testing and interpreting the results, and confidential linkages and resources for referrals to trained counselors. The personalized smartphone application, developed on the basis of original research published in multiple open access journals, helps circumvent the social visibility associated with HIV testing in a healthcare facility. The application could alleviate fears of stigma and discrimination and make HIV detection simple, non-judgmental, and confidential while empowering individuals with distilled scientific knowledge.
“Being an award recipient will help shine light on the fact that open access acts like a catalyst—by allowing unrestricted knowledge sharing—it exponentiates the power of knowledge to transform and impact lives beyond borders, boundaries, languages, and regions; facilitates creation of novel innovations, improved practices, and policies,” said Nitika Pant Pai. “With our synergistic innovation (application), we created a patient-desired, non-judgmental, private option that empowers proactive individuals to self-educate, stage, and seek linkages for HIV.”
Visualizing Complex Science (Daniel Mietchen, PhD; Raphael Wimmer; and Nils Dagsson Moskopp): Many aspects critical to understanding science, experiments, and the natural world are hard to convey using only words and diagrams. Good-quality multimedia can help make that understanding easier. Daniel Mietchen and his group created the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI), a bot that can find and download supplementary multimedia files from reusably licensed open access research articles deposited in PubMed Central and uploads them to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository used by the Wikipedias and their sister projects. To date, the bot has uploaded more than 14,000 files that are being used in more than 200 English Wikipedia articles and many more in other languages that together garner about three million monthly views.
“We want people to play around with scientific materials and to engage with scientific processes,” said Daniel Mietchen. “Scientific research should play a more public role in our society, and open licenses greatly facilitate that. We are glad that the award highlights the value of reusing, revising, remixing, and redistributing open access materials.”
As award recipients, these individuals and teams are being honored for addressing a real-world challenge by reusing previously published open access research to make a difference in science, medicine, business, technology, or society as a whole. Open access is the free, immediate, online availability of articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully as long as the author and the original source are properly attributed.
Video interviews of the winning recipients and honorable mentions, as well as additional information about the program, are available on the ASAP website.
The ASAP program sponsors share a commitment to affect policy and public understanding to support the adoption of open access. They include the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Co-Action Publishing, Copernicus Publications, Creative Commons, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), eLife, Hindawi, Health Research Alliance (HRA), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, ImpactStory, Jisc, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Mendeley, Microsoft Research, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), Research Councils UK (RCUK), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), Social Science Research Network (SSRN), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), SURF (Netherlands), the World Bank, and major sponsors Google, PLOS, and the Wellcome Trust.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.