When Covid-19 was detected and Ireland in March 2020, a full-scale national lockdown rapidly followed. It was initially thought that the HSE Open Access Awards would have to be abandoned like so many other longstanding events.
However after some deliberation we decided to forge ahead with a modified version of the awards. The usual range of categories were replaced by just one – Covid-19 – and the entire process was moved online.
The awards normally judge research published in the last two years, so focusing on Covid-19 naturally limited the potential entries. Offsetting this however was the greatly increased level of research being carried out into the threat of the coronavirus – researchers in the Irish health services have been doing extraordinary work this year.
Runner up: Jane McGrath, .
Runner up: Dale Whelehan and colleagues, .
Overall winner: Dónal Ó Mathúna and colleagues, .
The presentation of the awards is usually a convivial occasion in Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin, where attendees chat over mince pies and coffee. This year the venue was the humbler surroundings of a Webex teleconference, but the attendance was still sizeable and the ceremony enjoyable, despite minor technical hitches.
The National Health Librarian Aoife Lawton presented the awards, with speeches by Dr Ana Terrés of the Research & Development office, and the external judge Dr Jonathan Drennan.
Aoife revealed that the “European Commission…looked at 10 years of publishing globally between 2009-2018, and open access trends. For these years, Ireland produced 45.9% of its publications in open access, so 54.1% was closed or required a fee to access. The gap between closed and open access is closing.”
Prof. Drennan observed that a year ago, the WHO had 8 resources on Covid-19 - now it is 136,642. In the context of this global research, Irish-based researchers have been making their mark. Prof. Drennan spoke about each of the winning entries and highlighted their individual qualities.
Reflecting on the many unanticipated consequences of the pandemic, Dr Ana Terrés suggested that Covid-19 had “had the effect of making Open Access come to the fore in a way that has never happened before.”
Nearly a hundred percent of Covid-19 papers, she said, had been made Open Access to ensure that information was available to fight the coronavirus with maximum efficiency.
Dr Terrés contrasted this with the 20%-30% of Open Access papers in other medical areas, saying that there was a long way to go to achieve the levels of cooperation shown in relation to Covid-19.
“I think this award is brilliant,” she added, “because it brings it to the fore of people’s minds and makes sure that the issue remains alive.”
National Health Library & Knowledge Service. Health Service Executive. Dr. Steevens' Hospital, Dublin 8. Tel: 01-6352555/8. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org