Behind the Open Access Button is a team of international student volunteers. Get to know them on Team Button Tuesdays! This week we have a special edition on Thursday, since we announced our crowdfunding campaign for Button 2.0 on Tuesday. This week we have Dave, our Communications Coordinator; and Reshma, one of our Community and Advocacy Coordinators.
Dave Bennett, Communications Coordinator
Hi, I’m Dave and am a pretty new member of the Button team. Like most students I had come to regard paywalls as a frustrating but routine part of everyday life: some research was just too much hassle to be able to read.
I’ve now graduated as a fully-fledged conservation biologist though, and in doing so the issue has become huge to me. Without links to a university I’ve now lost access to the research I need to read in my day to day life. Paying around $30 to check out a paper that may or may not even be of any use to me is frankly insane, and like most I can’t afford to do it. This is how I came across the OpenAccess Button-as a method of helping me gain the information that I need, a sorely needed way to assist with a messed up system.
In my field most research is carried out by academics, in theory for the benefit of conservation practitioners in the field. However due to the current journal system large portions of research are locked behind paywalls, far out of reach of the usually poor charities who need this information most.
It’s due to these two factors that I jumped at the chance of being involved with the OpenAccess Button. I have been an amateur blogger on biological and environmental issues for a while, so it’s great to be able to use the skills I built up there to hopefully make the world that little bit better. The majority of the knowledge that humanity possesses is already on the internet, and the current system of locking it away is ultimately to the detriment of most of the world. Whether the issue impacts us directly, or just from living in a society where those who need information struggle to get to it, we’re all better in a world where knowledge is free to all.
Reshma Ramachandran, Community and Advocacy Coordinator
Hello! My name is Reshma and I’m a new member to the Button team. Right now, I am extremely fortunate to be a student at an institution with one of the world’s largest libraries and access to millions of research articles. I can easily say that on a daily basis, I have to log in with my school ID to pull up an article for my classes or research projects. Just two years ago thought, I didn’t have such access and it almost cost a patient’s a life.
During my third year of medical school, I was working at a community hospital outside of the larger hospital system that my medical school is affiliated with. Here, we still hand wrote patient notes and had to keep track of bulky folders of their past medical history on the floors. While I left every day with my hands cramped and covered in ink, I loved working there because of the patients. In my few months, I got to know quite a few patients very well as they repeatedly were admitted to the hospital and viewed these admissions as their form of primary care. Towards the end of my time at this hospital, I rotated through the hospital’s small Intensive Care Unit (ICU) taking care of those patients who had life-threatening illnesses that required constant monitoring and treatment. One day, a middle-aged woman was admitted to the ICU for shortness of breath and loss of consciousness. After a series of tests, we realized that she was suffering from complicated pneumonia with an infected pleural effusion that needed to be drained immediately. She had had this procedure many times before and we feared that this time, the drainage would not work. The team’s attending physician recalled a recently published study from a randomized controlled trial, which found that administration of two specific drugs would allow for the drainage procedure to work and further prevent any complications. He was unsure however of the correct dosage or method to administer the drugs and with little time to spare to save this patient’s life, we needed to access the article immediately. Unfortunately, neither my attending physician nor the residents had an institutional or personal subscription to the journal. We also needed to go through a few articles to make sure we had the correct one with the supplementary material that went through the procedure to administer the drugs thoroughly. The total cost and time to find this article was too high. Instead, I called a classmate of mine and directed them over the phone to find and email the article to our team.
It was because of this experience and too many other similar ones that I am passionate about open access. I joined the Open Access Button team in hopes that I will never again have to factor in the cost of knowledge to save a patient’s life.