Scientists are typically tight-lipped when it comes to their research, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In an effort to battle the ongoing Zika epidemic, a number of global health bodies — including academic journals, charities, and institutes — have committed to sharing data on the virus.
The statement, signed by over 30 organisations, is meant to ensure that any information relevant to combating Zika is made freely and openly available to the international community as “soon as is feasibly possible”. Signatories include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, UK Medical Research Council, PLOS, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (along with the Chinese equivalent), The Lancet, and the US National Institutes of Health. Researchers who signed the agreement were assured that their work would still be eligible for publication in science journals.
“Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency,” said Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement. “This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly.” It’s critical, he said, that results are shared rapidly and in a way that’s “equitable, ethical and transparent”.
This move follows a recent WHO consultation held in early September 2015 in which leading international stakeholders agreed that the “timely and transparent pre-publication” of scientific data and results “must become the global norm”.
Talk about long-overdue. It took the West African Ebola Epidemic to get the global health community on board with this idea.
Here’s the complete list of signatories:
Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation, USA
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
South African Medical Research Council
UK Medical Research Council
ZonMw - The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development