An Open Access Future? Report from the eurocancercoms project

“In 2010, the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) as a member of the Eurocancercoms FP7 project conducted a survey on professional communication activities across its European membership with particular reference to the use of the internet and barriers to communication. Over half of the survey respondents were working in basic cancer research, a further third in translational research and the remaining respondents in epidemiology or medical oncology. From a range of interesting information and opinions, the survey revealed that the internet is used by 94% of cancer researchers for professional activities every day with the majority accessing PubMed and online journals daily or 2-3 times a week. These simple statistics place access to published research findings online at the centre of support for cancer researchers’ work: a crucial sharing of information which can accelerate progress in the scientific battle with cancer.

While the survey had not focussed on Open Access specifically, comment banks and discussions at consensus meetings following the publication of the survey results highlighted the issue of access to subscription journals, the barrier to essential and urgent information that a ‘paywall’ creates, and the need for free access. A second survey picking up on the issue of Open Access publishing has now been completed. This paper shares the results of that survey, which was again conducted across the European membership of EACR, and cross references responses with selected data from the Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP) 2011 which was undertaken across all academic disciplines. The SOAP data is freely accessible and can be mined for information by anyone who wishes to use it. A number of questions were included in the survey that mirrored those used by SOAP, allowing the direct comparison of results. In this article a comparison has been made between the responses provided by cancer researchers and the 7,433 respondents to the SOAP survey from the Biological Sciences. (Over 43,000 responses were received across all disciplines to the SOAP survey.)

As a conclusion and invitation to further discussion, this paper also contributes to the debate around subscription and Open Access publishing, supporting the case for accelerating the progress towards Open Access publishing of cancer research articles as a particularly supportive way of assisting all researchers to make unhindered progress with their work.”