2020 – The Year of Open Science

Kamila Markram, CEO and co-founder, Frontiers

2020 will be remembered not only for the tremendous hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, which put us all to the test, but also as a year of great progress, resilience and the amazing human spirit with which we rose to the challenges placed in front of us.  

COVID-19 is a challenge like nothing the scientific research community has ever faced before. Science and scientists have been thrust into the international spotlight, and they have excelled at delivering solutions. Scientists raced to provide insights into a global public health crisis, and have developed treatments and vaccines at a speed never seen before in human history. 

At Frontiers alone, our editorial community pulled together to volunteer their time to rapidly and rigorously review nearly 10’000 COVID-related article submissions. They have done so with persevering dedication. We also made sure these articles were not only free to read and download, but also free to publish. To date, we have provided waivers worth ~USD5 million to support the response to the pandemic. These combined efforts resulted in over 2’000 published COVID articles across the Frontiers journals, which received over 10 million views and downloads from research and innovation centers and pharmaceutical companies all over the world. Together with hundreds of Research Topics and interviews with leading experts, all this COVID-19 research is available for people everywhere on our Coronavirus Knowledge Hub.

This year, unprecedented rapid and open sharing of all COVID research results, coupled with intensified international scientific collaboration, made it clear to everyone that Open Science is the only way through a crisis.  

The genetic sequence of the virus was shared by Chinese scientists in January, allowing the international scientific community to immediately start working on vaccines. COVID-19 manuscripts were put onto pre-print servers, which saw an astronomic rise. However, only rigorous and diligent peer-review by fellow experts certifies the validity of results. This meant peer-review in many scientific journals, including our own, was fast-tracked, whilst quality controls remained stringent even at the accelerated speed. At an unprecedented pace, over 180’000 COVID-related articles were peer-reviewed and published, most of them open to access, even those in subscription journals.

With a global death toll of 1.2 million people and economic losses in the trillions of dollars, it has become obvious that lives and livelihoods depend on immediate and open access to COVID-19 research results. What had not been accomplished over decades of trying to make science open, was rightfully done for COVID-19 research within a matter of months. A global emergency can only be overcome when research results are rapidly and openly shared with everyone – researchers, innovators, policy makers, industry, and the public.  

It is this shift that will help us in the race for solutions in other public health areas. Respiratory diseases take eight million lives every year. Cancer, 10 million. Cardio-vascular diseases, 18 million lives. Yet, only 20-30% of research articles are open to access. We could be saving so many more lives and preventing trillions of dollars of economic losses because of these diseases by embracing Open Science as our default modus operandi.  

The mission under which all of us at Frontiers unite is to make science open so we can live healthy lives on a healthy planet. However, this mission is not yet accomplished and is even more relevant and urgent today than ever before. Making our science open will better prepare us for future pandemics. It would also accelerate urgently needed solutions to the greatest challenge of our time – climate change.  

We remain fully dedicated to supporting the research community to achieve this mission. Lives and livelihoods depend on it. 

A heartfelt thank you to all our authors, editors, and reviewers for your invaluable contributions and for your ongoing commitment and dedication to Open Science. I am truly proud to be a part of this community and to work alongside people who make a difference. 

From our family to your family, we wish you happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  

Stay safe,  

Kamila