Ed: For the second installment of our Access Around the World series, I’d like to introduce Luís Machado. Luís recently graduated from medical school in Portugal and is the European Medical Students’ Association’s liaison officer to the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME).
In my country, Portugal, and those in Central Europe with which I’m familiar, medical textbooks are still the main resources students use to learn about any issue. However, within the context of the current Bologna framework, medical curricula in Europe are changing to put more and more emphasis on scientific research. For example, in Portugal, every medical student is required to do a final research project on a topic chosen by the student to develop research skills.
While my colleagues and I face a variety of challenges in conducting research, the one I hear complaints about most often is lack of access to the scientific articles we need for our work. Indeed, our institutions have paid for access to the majority of the “relevant” publications, but that gives rise to questions such as, what if I need to work from home where I don’t have access? Or what if other colleagues are using the several school computers, which often happens? Or what if I need to use an article published by a “not so relevant” journal (according to the university), which the school doesn’t pay for? We face these problems and many others when trying to access research.
I support the Right to Research Coalition, because I believe science and education should be available to all. Knowledge must be public; scientific content must be Open Access, in order to reach everyone without boundaries. The world is becoming more interconnected everyday, so let us make the results of scientific research free for all! The sharing of all resources is vital, especially for young scientists and students.
Within my organizations, the European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) and the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), I believe there is an outstanding opportunity to cooperate and promote Open Access. Both organizations have widespread European networks of active members, which is a key factor in bringing about change on such a huge scale, and I believe having doctors on our side would be an amazing achievement.
EMSA has recently addressed Open Access during a CPME General Assembly, drawing interest from quite a few doctors. We must continue raising awareness and engaging doctors and medical students to bring them to our side! We have many major milestones ahead of us, but with great effort and a strong sense of purpose, we will accomplish them!
The frame to develop a global network of students, doctors, researchers, and others to promote Open Access exists, but now we must ACT to accomplish this hard task. Let us advocate NOW and GLOBALLY and take further steps in the path toward a world where science has no limits!
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I read your article with interest and congratulate you on it. Having graduated from a Portuguese medical school some years ago and been on both sides of the teacher-student equation (and been at the dawn era of EMSA Portugal!), I do not entirely share your view that medical textbooks are the main resources in Portuguese Universities. Those who want to make critical scientific thought the backbone of their training do so resorting to journals regardless of their professor’s suggestions. I do agree that there is a selection bias on behalf of the universities, which is not specific to Portugal. Having said that, students need to be proactive in the way they choose to learn; they are the major stakeholders in the whole process.
I strongly support your view on Open Access and the Right to Research Coalition. I also suggest the following website: http://www.openaire.eu/. This is an excellent initiative on behalf of the European Research Council that we should applaud and divulge at European universities.