June 24, 2017


Extracts of The Library of Alexandra

June 7, 2017


On June 6th 2017, in a series of tweets, Carl Malamud @carlmalamud  unearthed a very interesting entity. Carl describes himself on Twitter as:-

Archivist. Usually Civil Servant. Founder of . Open Source America’s Operating System. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.


Carl Malamud is the President and Founder of Public.Resource.Org. The author of 8 books, Malamud was previously founder of the Internet Multicasting Service, a nonprofit that started the first radio station on the Internet and was responsible for making the SEC EDGAR database available. He is the recipient of the Berkman Award from Harvard, the Pioneer Award from the EFF, and the Bill Farr Award from the First Amendment Coalition.


And he concludes his thread with:-

In a subsequent tweet, he confirms that he will be taking this further:-


I have since updated the Reception section of the Wikipedia page about Sci-Hub to reflect this.


Preprints – who to follow…

May 15, 2017

COS logo

I’ve touched upon the Center for Open Science previously on this blog. Looking back and ahead – Centre for Open Science


The following tweet from Brian Nosek @BrianNosek Executive Director at Center for Open Science @OSFramework was the conduit to this post.

A few tweets later

And thus, Preprint Explorers was created in real time. https://twitter.com/OSFramework/lists/preprint-explorers (now deleted) Another copy may follow 😉 (And indeed it did)

During this period, I thought about creating a list on here, and in no order (irrelevant)…

Conflict of Interest Statements (COIS) will now appear on PubMed Abstracts for all papers where indicated in publication.

April 20, 2017

pubmed image

New York University nutrition researcher Marion Nestle has been tracking industry-funded studies on her blog: 156 of 168 reported results that favored the funders’ interests. Annette Elizabeth Allen

This post was prompted by the following tweet:-

The link in the above tweet takes you to

Too many studies have hidden conflicts of interest. A new tool makes it easier to see them.

PubMed, the Google of scientific search, is now publishing funding information in its abstracts.

Great post by Julia Belluz @juliaoftoronto

My immediate response on Twitter

The screenshot in Julia’s post comes from….. PubMed PubMed Updates March 2017

Of the four changes mentioned, this is the most significant.


The one example given by PubMed is from an Open Access (OA) paper indexed in PubMed Central (PMC) (additional arrow added).

PubMed COI

“PubMed will include conflict of interest statements below the abstract when these statements are supplied by the publisher”

Emphasis mine.

Generally speaking in terms of published research papers, COIs are largely hidden towards the end (if at all). They are vitally important IMO but this is the first time I’ve seen one indexed upfront in PubMed. Going back to a key point in Julia’s post:-

We strongly urge … all journals listed in PubMed to provide information about funding sources and other possible competing interests in all abstracts. To facilitate research, the “competing interest” section should be fully searchable. Thus, PubMed would advise users about the entity or entities that funded the study and whether (a) the authors reported no competing interests; (b) the authors reported the competing interests; (c) the article did not include a competing-interests disclosure statement; or (d) the journal did not provide disclosure of funding sources or the authors’ other competing interests.

pubmed pharma


In short my question is, will traditional/legacy/subscription based publishers make such important information freely available or remain hidden behind their paywalls ?

+++UPDATE 1+++

I asked my long term trusted contact at NCBI/NIH if they could confirm if these will appear widely or just on OA papers like the one mentioned.

They advised “I believe it’s on papers where indicated in publication”

+++UPDATE 2+++

I did a check on 22nd April to see if this change had been fully implemented. The following randomly picked papers were checked to see if COIs were mentioned in the Abstracts on PubMed. No mention made. Having read through the full texts of these, COIs appear in all of them. Clearly, still work to do for the PubMed team.


Extraordinary Everyday Lives #053 Open Science

April 16, 2017


Update: A shorter and hopefully clearer version salvaged from Mikes analog backup recording has been posted and feds should now be getting this clearer file.

Update: Apologies for audio quality, some interference gremlins snuck in somewhere. We are looking at fixing it up somewhat and will republish the audio as soon as that’s done.

The Extraordinary Everyday Lives Show #053 Open Science
Thurs 24th July 2008

>>>>>>>>>>>> MP3 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

This show is all about the intersection of Technology and Human desire. This year Dave and I have been focusing on deepening connections with those we subscribe to via RSS. Having a chat on a podcast is a remarkable way of doing that we have found. Agenda is loose guide only, we are very stream of consciousness, no edits, no script kinda guys.

New intro music this show. Courtesy of Graham, one of our guests. I remixed it a bit for the intro and play the full song, Wake Up Now, after the discussions.

Open Science

Rough chronological talking points:
-mike had nothing more than a vague idea such a movement would exist prior to starting work at a University in April.
-his RSS reader provided some clues to a trail which I followed Graham Steel was one of the first to respond to my thinking out loud
-how graham and mike hooked up
-richard discovered it after posting an experiment on his labrats blog, and people got in touch.
-two sides open scientific publication & open notebook scientists
-trust and sharing of unpublished latest work
-tension between competition and openness
-openness outwards facing and inclusionary of wider community sharing of scientific data
-paradigm shift involvement with and giving something back to community
-blogging science
-use of podcasts big uptake in unis
-richard is attending a Science Blogging event at the Royal Institute in London on Saturday 30th August
www.nature.com/natureconferences/sciblog2008/index.html. One of the science communications team at USyd interviewed me (richard) this morning about this conference. Very interesting: theyre really keen on the idea here. Im also going to an Open Science meet at Southampton two days after the London meeting, organized by Cameron Neylon.
-guys will try to record and live blog the london event
-whats this about? http://blog.openwetware.org/scienceintheopen/2008/07/21/the-full-web20-experience-my-talk-tomorrow-at-iwmw-in-aberdeen/
-discussion about how to capture the esence of a event with blogging, podcasts etc. immediacy.
-going to use one of grahams songs for intro to this show http://www.macjams.com/song/34800 Wake Up Now
http://www.music20book.com/ Gerds book
-posters in 2nd Life http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeblogs/195285627/
-mike talks about science in the sl community. specific uses of 3d environment.what are they good for in science? rf. mike crawling thru a molecule. [dnw]
-Knol somewhere between closed and open science use? http://knol.google.com/k/knol# (A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic.)

Graham Steel http://twitter.com/McDawg

Networking between us public, science bloggers, scientists, researchers, physicians, Journals etc.

Nature Network http://network.nature.com/profile/steelgraham
Public Library of Science (PLoS) blog http://www.plos.org/cms/blog
Open Access Directory wiki http://oad.simmons.edu/
MacJams Music Blog http://blog.macjams.com/?p=223
Personal blog http://mcblawg.blogspot.com
Do Bloggers Add a New Dimension to Conferences? http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2008/01/science_blogging_conference_vi.php

Richard Grant (twitter: rpg_twit skype: rpg7sky AIM/iChat: rpg7aim)

Nature Network http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/rpg
University of Sydney http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/labrats/ Richards open science stuff
Personal blog http://rg-d.com/BioLOG/

LINKS and Random Stuff

The Royal Institution


http://www.oar2008.qut.edu.au/ Open access & research meeting in Brisbane towards the end of September. Some impressive names.
On the subject of technology and human desire, check out this presentation from Prof David Wishart in Canada. http://www.scribd.com/word/full/2159511?access_key=key-29c44pnl25896imfykd1 I mashed it a wee bit.

This just in:
Over the past few years, blogging (‘web logging’) has become a major social movement, and as such includes blogs by scientists about science. Blogs are highly idiosyncratic, personal and ephemeral means of public expression, and yet they contribute to the current practice and reputation of science as much as, if not more than, any popular scientific work or visual presentation. It is important, therefore, to understand this phenomenon.


Intro music, Wake Up Now, by steck, via macjams.com.

Image: Culture Tubes, www.flickr.com/photos/10775233@N00/107326169

3 Responses to Extraordinary Everyday Lives #053 Open Science

  1. OpenScience on latest Extraordinary podcast | Learning with the Fang Says:
    […] has already posted yesterdays chat about OpenScience for our Extraordinary Everyday Lives podcast. It was a beaut chat with Graham and […]
  2. The Podcast Network Blog » Blog Archive » TPN Week In Review: July 28 – August 4 , 2008 Says:
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    […] discussion (thanks to Graham and Richard) on my last Extraordinary everyday lives podcast (episode 53), there seems to be some interest in connecting the event in London with people in other geography […]

Looking back and ahead – Centre for Open Science

March 13, 2017

COS logo


Follows a series of tweets from Brian Nosek @BrianNosek Executive Director at Center for Open Science @OSFramework













And finally….

nature or wikipedia

January 17, 2017

Would you rather be published in logo_nature

or cited in  wikipedia_logo_detail?

How to start an Open Science revolution! An interview with patient advocate, Graham Steel.

November 7, 2016

Continuing our Open Science Stars interview series, today we’re happy to bring to you Graham Steel, a relentless campaigner for all things Open!

Hi Graham, and thanks for joining us here! Could you start off by letting us know a little bit about your background?

For 25 years, my background (as in day job) was dealing with insurance claims for various insurers, legal firms and service providers. In my spare time as of around 2001, I became involved in research/science outreach and as of now, I would class myself as an open science enthusiast. From Jan 2015 – August 2016, I acted as Community Manager (then Social Media Manager) for ContentMine.

When did you first hear about open access/data/science? What were your initial thoughts?

In order, I first heard about open access late 2006, open science the following year and then open data. My initial thoughts were that all these entities were much needed and refreshing alternatives to all that I had seen or read about such topics up until then, i.e., closed access, prohibitive paywalls, “data not shown” etc.

You’re what some people call a ‘Patient Advocate’ – what is that, and what’s the story there?

The terms Patient Advocate and Patient Advocacy broadly speaking can mean a number of things. By definition, “Patient advocacy is an area of lay specialization in health care concerned with advocacy for patients, survivors, and carers”. For myself personally, this began in 2001 and mainly concerned bereaved relatives and then patients and their family members. See here for further details.

You relentlessly campaign for various aspects of open science – what drives you in this?

My means of background, I would say with certainty that during the period of around 2008 – 2011, the (sadly now deceased) social media aggregator site Friendfeed was the space in which the foundations for a lot of my current thinking were set out. Prior to that, having already been primed with open access and open data, that’s pretty much where open science really took off in earnest. Science and indeed research in the open is without question the way forward for all.

Science and indeed research in the open is without question the way forward for all.

You’re not exactly silent in your angst against some publishers for their business practices. What are the major issues that you have here?

With regards to the “angst” you mention, I have been become a more mature/level headed individual these days in this respect compared to a few years ago. Looking through my blog posts over the years, these have mainly been about ‘pro open’ issues rather than ‘bashing certain publishers’. As a prolific tweeter though, I may have put out ‘a few’ ones where I have not exactly been ‘silent’ as you say.

How does social media play a role in your daily activities as an open advocate?

What is this thing called social media that you mention? Having joined Twitter in January 2008, initially I didn’t use it that much but that has certainly changed over time. “@McDawg posts an average of 53.51 tweets per day” according to one of many free online tools. Social media is pretty much essential for what I and many many others do pretty much everyday.

How does open access play into the bigger picture of open knowledge and open culture?

Great question! Firstly, I thought about a comment (in part) I made in an interview back in 2012. “OA itself however is just one cog (but a significant one) in the wheel of Open Science!!” In my mind, I don’t think it’s easy to ‘timeline’ as you were the onset and development of all things open. I’ve not studied free/open culture in vast detail myself. A good source in this area (not surprisingly) is Lawrence Lessig. See here for details. The history of open access dates back to around the 1950s. When ArXiv.org started in 1991 that was the precursor to what we know as open access today. In short, I would say that open access is a foundation stone to the grander scheme of things.

I would say that open access is a foundation stone to the grander scheme of things

You’re a major player in communities such as OpenCon – what position do you think these play in the development of open initiatives across the planet?

I think it’s important to have a number of open communities/initiatives across the planet and that there should be synergy between them wherever possible. Specifically, OpenCon “was convened in response to incredible desire from the next generation to advance these issues.” [Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education]. Other than the annual OpenCon event which has taken place every year since 2014, the community hold regular calls online (open to anyone with an internet connection) as well as many satellite events around the planet before, during and after the main event each year. I am extremely encouraged by such activities.

You once said at SpotOn London that getting younger students and researchers to practice open science was the real revolution – what did you mean by this?

What I meant by that is reflected by the answer to it. In context, that was a short comment I made when live-streaming a Panel Discussion, “What do you need to start a revolution?” in 2012 in London. VIDEO. Transcript of what I said:- “A question for Ethan (Ethan Perlstein) from an Open Science Enthusiast to an Open Scientist. What can we do to further encourage upcoming younger researchers to be open scientists? That’s the revolution!”

Ethan replied, “For sure. I mean to me, the first step was simply getting on Twitter and realizing there’s a community of solidarity out there ‘cause otherwise, you’re just stewing in your own thoughts. So that’s my definition of the first step. And then from there, people are going to have more specific interests and you’ll find a sub group within the larger community that you can then complement the social network activity with real face to face activity and then you can start to do important things. The only thing I can say is that you need to first find that community of solidarity and Twitter is the easiest way to find them.” 

How can younger students commit to open research practices without the fear of career or scooping risk hanging over them?

In reverse order, the issue of scooping. My advice would be to get your work/data/code out there on the internet as quickly as possible. This could be via an Open Notebook, on GitHub, or somewhere within the many platforms of Wikipedia etc. In terms of research papers, there are now many options to choose from in terms of uploading a preprint of your work. With regards to the fear of career risk, be bold! Take a ‘wear open on your sleeve’ attitude. I can highly recommend watching Erin McKeirnan’s talk My pledge to be Open from OpenCon 2015.

Also check out her project Why Open Research?. Also from that event, I would suggest watching Michael Eisen’s talk, Wear Open on Your Sleeve.

How have policies in the UK with regards to open science changed over the last few years? What do you think the most influential factors here have been? Do you think they are generally progressive policies?

This is a complex issue with so many players involved. When I first started to follow the UK’s position with regards to open access many years ago, most of the key research funders had a reasonably strong position on ‘encouraging’ open access. (The exception being Wellcome Trust who started mandating open access in 2005). That wasn’t largely effective (as elsewhere) which in part led to The Finch Group/Report around 2012. The outcome of Finch was a preference for Gold open access.


Since then, there have been influential factors by funders such as Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical research charity funding research into human and animal health. Wellcome’s progressive policies/position on open access can be found on various pages on their website such as here, here, and here. This year, they announced their own unique open access publishing venture, Wellcome Open Research which will start publishing research as early as next month.

I am also mindful of some salient responses from Jan Velterop when I interviewed him in 2012. “What always surprises me in these discussions is their national focus, whereas science is one of the most global enterprises on earth. The most positive developments for OA have been the greater awareness of it, even in the general media. Little else is new. And even attention to open access by the Guardian isn’t, as this article from February 2005 shows”.

What do you think the biggest impediments to open research are? How can we collectively combat or overcome them


First and foremost has to be Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This is despite an abundance of evidence which over the years has shown that this is a highly flawed metric. I would encourage academics to make enquiries within their Institutions to take a pledge and sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, DORA. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, embrace the fact that it takes very little effort these days to get a preprint of your work archived on the web.

I would encourage academics to make enquiries within their Institutions to take a pledge and sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, DORA

What tools or platforms would you recommend to researchers looking to get into open science?

There are so many these days, where does one start? The best resource out there at present (I am not alone in this view) is Innovations in Scholarly Communication (now available in seven languages) created by Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman. Also see https://innoscholcomm.silk.co/ which is super awesome.

Where do you see the future of scholarly communication? What steps are needed to get there? Whose responsibility do you think it is to lead this change?

I don’t have the answers to those myself. As of the time of writing, I would highly recommend Open Science Framework. I am moving more and more in the direction of advocating preprints for any paper with optionally, publication in journals later.



Thanks for the great interview, Graham!

So how can we “Share It” exactly ?

October 28, 2016


On a one year trial basis, in late 2014 Nature.com launched a potentially ‘interesting’ initiative which they called #scishare – Press Release

In December 2014, a 12-month content sharing trial was set up to enable subscribers to 49 journals on nature.com to legitimately and conveniently share the full text of articles of interest with colleagues without a subscription via a shareable web link on nature.com, enabled by publishing technology company, ReadCube. The trial was also extended to 100 media outlets and blogs around the world that report on the findings of articles published on nature.com, allowing them to provide their own readers with a link to a full text, read-only view of the original scientific paper.

Shortly after the launch, a number of people turned to social media/blogs to express their views.

On ReadCube, and Nature‘s give-away – Mike Taylor

Why Nature’s “SciShare” experiment is bad for altmetrics – Impactstory

– John Wilbanks

High-priced research publishers warily open up to the Web

Open access and the direction of travel in scholarly publishing – Stephen Curry

Macmillan may now offer ‘free access’, but is it really open?– Martin Eve

Some were of the view that Nature.com were making subscription based content Open Access which they were not.

Content sharing is *not* open access and why NPG is committed to both 

Nature.com content sharing: action and reaction – Timo Hannay

Clearing Up Misperceptions About Nature.com Content Sharing

There was a lot of discussion about all of this at the following Reddit thread.

Science AMA Series: I’m Timo Hannay, former director of nature.com, Nature Publishing Group recently announced a “free to view” program which has created some excitement and misunderstandings. Ask me anything about it.

The results of the trial were released in December 2015 – Press Release

Some of the ‘key’ findings (emphasis in bold mine):-

• The most popular method of sharing of scientific articles has been via the media and blogger referral programme, which gave readers of articles free, read-only access to the full text of scientific articles in news stories and posts. (77%)
• High-profile media reports of Nature journal articles from a plethora of international media outlets drove the most traffic of the trial. The most popular article of 2015 was, “A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance” published in Nature in January 2015.
• In order, the most popular news outlets were: the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, Science Magazine and the Washington Post.
• Peer to peer sharing, where subscribers send or post shareable links to journal articles on nature.com tended to be mostly (67%) between subscribers and non-subscribers, with the remainder mainly accounted for by sharing between those who already had subscription access.
The trial had no adverse implications for subscription-based journals either in terms of institutional business or individual article sales.
• The free read-only links were shared all across the globe but the most active sharing was instigated by subscribers in: the USA, the UK, Japan, Germany, China, Canada, Spain, France, India and the Republic of Korea.

In March 2016, it was announced that Springer Nature were set to extend content sharing to the entire Springer Nature-owned journal portfolio – Press Release


Springer Nature will provide authors with free, shareable links to view-only versions of their peer-reviewed research papers, starting with authors of Nature and the Nature research journals. This initiative will then be extended to authors of all other Springer Nature-owned primary research journals, and ultimately to all authors of Springer Nature published primary research journals. These links can be posted anywhere, including via social channels and on other highly-used sites, institutional repositories and authors’ own websites, as well as scholarly collaborative networks, which many researchers are using to collaborate and to share both publicly and privately. These sharing services are expected to be operational within the next two months for all Springer Nature-owned primary research titles, with sharing services for additional portfolio titles to follow once agreed with their owners in the following months.

The range of media partners enabled to use this sharing facility will also be extended. These media partners already represent over 100 other sites, many aimed at the public, including TheBBC, The Economist, Wired and The New York Times, as well as many leading science bloggers.

The tools that enable the content sharing initiative are provided by ReadCube, whose industry-leading functionality enables sharers to make available final published versions of research papers in the streaming Enhanced PDF format. In addition to the full text of the articles the Enhanced PDF provides hyperlinked in-line citations and figures, annotation capabilities, one-click access to supplemental content and figures and advanced article metrics.

Beyond these measures, Springer Nature plans additional steps to further extend sharing options which address the long-term needs of the research community.

I for one was having various technical issues getting this to work in practice.

At that time, it meant having to manually download a paper then manually uploading it to my library on ReadCube and then trying to find the sharable link which didn’t always work.

An example of when it did.


From a DRM perspective though, here’s what these shortened URLs actually look like in full


Devils Advocate

On the above point, I have to mention the following post by Dr Ross Mounce, March 2015 who has strong views on ReadCube.


How to Block Readcube and Why

On October 17th 2016, following on from the earlier announcement in March above, Springer Nature did indeed roll this out on a much larger scale – Press Release

Springer Nature is delighted to announce that it has rolled out its free content sharing initiative, now named SharedIt, to all of the Springer Nature-owned portfolio and over one thousand additional co-owned and partner-owned journals. This now encompasses over 2,300 journals and enables authors and subscribers to post links to free-to-read versions of primary research articles anywhere, including social media platforms, repositories, websites, scholarly collaborative networks and via emails. It follows a successful trial and roll out of the initiative for research articles in Nature-branded journals which has resulted in over 2.2 million additional article views since its launch in December 2014.

“As the first publisher to trial free sharing of subscription journal articles back in December 2014 via a new service now named SharedIt, we were confident that our initiative would be a useful service to our authors and subscribers, which was why we took the bold step to trial it. Uptake of the service and the positive feedback we have received since then clearly demonstrate that there is a need – and a real appetite – for a simple, quick and legitimate way to share research in the academic community. This led us to the decision to invest in extending SharedIt across the entire portfolio, in combination with our partners at ReadCube,” said Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer at Springer Nature. “We believe that SharedIt is particularly beneficial because, unlike when PDFs or paper versions of research are circulated, the SharedIt links ensure that the most up to date, online version of the article is accessed, as well as providing valuable information to librarians, our authors and the wider community about how content is being utilised.”

After this was confirmed, I thought I would revisit the issue of how easy or not it was to share content since the last time I had tried. Initially, I thought not much had changed as in you still had to manually download papers and upload to ReadCube.

No response to those tweets.

I was pleased? to note however that things have indeed changed….but….

without any announcement as how to do it ????

Personal communication:-

‘Even with the Nature implementation – there was no real education effort once it went live which was a shame. Unless you knew to click the “share” icon – you didn’t know it was there’.

Totally random Springer Nature papers accessed – October 20th 2016.




The point being that sharable links are now there automatically, no longer any need to faff around with downloading and uploading papers to create them.


As matters stand though, it would appear that Springer Nature don’t really want you to know how simple this now is.

On a lighter note to end with…



Since writing the above, Springer Nature have now * put out the following resources which provide the needed clarity !

* After I put in a request for this with folks from Springer Nature in person.






Making Sense of Research Papers

October 21, 2016

This post was prompted by the following tweet on 20th October 2016:-



This got me thinking again about this issue. I don’t think this issue relates solely to open access papers, but to any science/research papers. As such, let’s leave the open access issue aside (where possible) for the purposes of this post.

From a personal point of view, as a non academic, I started reading research papers back in 2001 during my time in the Charitable Sector. For the organization in question, we had three fully qualified Scientific Advisors (at any given time) who were always to hand to assist us Trustees and Members when it came to technical issues where we were out of our depth.

3scientiststaralongtravistaylor-anthonycarboni-m-0527-653x0_q80_crop-smartIMAGE SOURCE

Given the fact that we were producing monthly newsletters which always included information on the latest research in the field in question, their input was invaluable.

As matters progresses, I started to consume more and more information, especially after one of our Advisors made me aware of PubMed ! Several months in, I was requesting dozens of PDFs per month either for personal use or to pass on internally to my colleagues. At times, rather than pestering our Advisors on every occasion, if I couldn’t understand a paper, emailing the author (or calling them) usually did the trick.

I then built up a large database of researchers in various fields (in this case, namely Neuroscience and Glycobiology) and over time, I/we had an extensive field of expertise at our virtual fingertips.  This was all in a time period before social media I should add !

Moving on several years.


On the internet there is a lot of information. Good, bad and ugly. In terms of the topic of this post, there are LOADS of Patient Forums online. Personally, I am only antiquated to a handful. Cue an earlier post, The International Gang of Four (IGF).

I recall I phrase I used from someone else in a comment I left on a PLOS paper which read:-

Articles in Science Journals do demand some effort from the reader; it’s not like reading the newspaper!

When I thought about that comment again, it sort of made me think of a partially related topic.

Patients would be confused if they were to have free access to the peer-reviewed medical literature on the web

Without being pejorative or elitist, I think that is an issue that we should think about very, very carefully, because there are very few members of the public, and very few people in this room, who would want to read some of this scientific information, and in fact draw wrong conclusions from it […] Speak to people in the medical profession, and they will say the last thing they want are people who may have illnesses reading this information, marching into surgeries and asking things. We need to be careful with this very, very high-level information.

Oral evidence to inquiry, March 1st 2004, John Jarvis (Managing Director, Wiley Europe)


This position is extremely elitist. It also defies logic. There is already a vast amount of material on medical topics available on the Internet, much of which is junk. Can it really be beneficial for society as a whole that patients should have access to all the dubious medical information on the web, but should be denied access to the scientifically sound, peer-reviewed research articles?

In some cases, to be sure, comprehending a medical research study can be a demanding task, requiring additional background reading. But patients suffering from diseases are understandably motivated to put in the effort to learn more about their conditions, as the success of patient advocacy groups in the USA has shown. Patients absolutely should have the right to see the results of the medical research that their taxes have paid for.


In 2011 after giving an invited talk at the conclusion of a JISC funded project entitled Patients Participate!, I found out about the excellent Sense About Science.

I then put out the following tweets this morning:-

Responses thus far…

Going back to the opening tweet:-

Lay summaries, supplements, primers: Scientists (and journals) strive to make science accessible to public (and each other)


Petition calls for lay summaries in ecology journals

Simplified synopses of research papers could help to bridge the gap between scientists and the public.

PLOS Medicine This Journal provides an Author Summary for all if not most papers.

Some other resources I found last night after a quick search:-

STM Digest will feature lay summaries of science papers with societal impact

Opinion: Lay summaries needed to enhance science communication

That last link takes you to the Access to Understanding homepage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Access to Understanding is a collaboration uniting organisations that want to improve public understanding of the latest biomedical and health research findings.

Our mission is to bridge the gap between public access to biomedical research articles online, and the wider understanding of the findings described in those articles.

Although online, open access to current research is increasing, much of this information is only accessible to a niche audience, usually just other scientists, due to the use of highly technical language. Access to Understanding aims to make scientific knowledge truly accessible by championing clear, concise and balanced summaries of research findings making them understandable to non-specialists. We are doing this by:

  • Providing guidance for anyone who is planning to write about biomedical research for a non-specialist audience.
  • Promoting online resources that support the use of plain-English writing in biomedical and health research.
  • Encouraging early-career scientists to write about research in an accessible way through our Access to Understanding science writing competition and giving anyone the opportunity to vote in our People’s Choice Award.
  • Working with like-minded organisations and individuals who want to help us bridge the gap between access and understanding – find out more here.

If you would like to help us achieve these goals, please contact us and tell us how you can help.

Access to Understanding ran an annual Competition from 2013 – 2015.

Here you can find the winners and commended entries from each year of the Access to Understanding science writing competition.

It was an honour to have been asked to act as one of the judges over 2013 – 2014 competition. Here is a video summary this of at the British Library (BL) which I think summarizes all of the above in context.