As part of a special issue focusing on public health communication, the August 2009 Bulletin of the World Health Organization features an outstanding article entitled “Open Access: a Giant Leap Towards Bridging Health Inequities.” The article presents the position that, “Science is a collaborative process and openness is fundamental to knowledge advancement.” Citing the response to the 2003 SARS outbreak as an example of a successful global collaboration, the authors credit the “unprecedented openness and willingness to share critical research information” as a key factor enabling scientists to identify the virus. The article describes how health knowledge loses context as it is passed down the traditional publication “information chain” and stresses the importance of coupling regional expertise with international research findings to provide context for applying knowledge locally. The article presents several examples of open content repositories and journals that are successfully in use worldwide, driven in part by mandates from funding organizations requiring support recipients to deposit research findings in open repositories or journals. The article concludes with a call to the United Nations and other international organizations to “give strong support to the open access movement, which holds such promise for both research and public health.”
The Open.Michigan community is an active participant in the global Health OER movement. The University of Michigan Medical School is publishing its curriculum materials as OER and is working collaboratively with other health science schools (including Nursing, Dentistry, and Public Health) to do the same. This strategy for becoming a global medical school provides benefits to our students (e.g., training them in a global health context), faculty members (e.g., research opportunities), and patients. Our experiences in international partnerships have demonstrated that lowering the barriers to sharing of data and knowledge, in all directions, can speed and enhance collaboration for research and education.