Over the past few months, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to begin expanding our coalition to include a truly global membership. We’ve recently welcomed the Malta Medical Students’ Association and the Indian Medical Student Association, and hope they’ll be the first among many new members outside of North America. This problem of access to research affects students all over the world, and we’re excited to build the kind of international coalition it will take to combat this global problem in a meaningful way.
As our coalition grows, the diversity of challenges our members face when trying to access research grows as well – what might not take a second thought in one country could prove impossible in another. It’s easy and certainly understandable to focus on the immediate barriers to access that you face, but it’s also important to understand that others face different, and often far greater, challenges.
With this in mind, we’re excited to announce the launch of a new, regular blog series called Access Around the World. We’ll be inviting student guest contributors from different countries to document what access to research is like in their country and why they believe Open Access is important. We’ll post new stories from new countries every few weeks, so check back regularly or subscribe to our RSS feed.
To kick things off, I would like to introduce our first guest contributor, Sohaib Zahid, a fourth year medical student at the Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi, Pakistan:
Medicine has always been my field of choice. Since high school, I’ve been interested in learning the most recent advances in Medicine. In medical school here in Pakistan, we rely on our textbooks to learn core knowledge about human anatomy, physiology, pathology and other parts of medicine. Similarly, our professors rely heavily on these texts when teaching us these core subjects. However, when it comes to information on the most current medical practices and most up-to-date treatments for particular diseases and conditions, we do not have access. Though the purpose of medical research is to take advantage of advances and practically implement them so that patients get proper management of their condition, we’re prevented from doing so when we can’t read the results of that research.
Unfortunately, in my medical school, professors do not usually teach us the most recent advances in medicine. This happens solely because, in Pakistan, the access to medical articles and journals is restricted. Despite these challenges, I try to compliment what I learn from my textbooks with the most recent research articles, but often my access to full text articles is restricted. Though we have access to many abstracts, they are of little significance and are in no way a substitute for the full text itself.
Our access to full texts is denied because we can’t subscribe to many journals due to high subscription fees. As a medical student, I can’t pay for access to these articles personally, so the end result is that I have to do without the benefit of the most recent advances – useful knowledge stays locked away in the journal without being transferred to the reader. As a medical student and future doctor, knowledge from recent studies on diseases is absolutely essential to my understanding of a particular condition and ability to give my patients the highest possible standard of care.
Open Access is absolutely essential for medical students, especially students like me who do not have easy access to research articles. Improved access to the results of research will not only greatly improve medical education, it will also give us confidence that we’re making use of the latest medical advances to give our patients the best possible outcomes.
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Glad to learn about your organization (through the Chronicle of Higher Education). You might find my primer on open access useful in educating students and others about what open access is all about: http://www.copyrightlaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/What-Is-OA-FINAL.pdf.