Alice Augusta Ball was an African American pharmacologist and chemist in the early 20th Century who developed the only effective treatment for Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) at that time. She taught chemistry at the University of Hawaii but died at age 24 before she could publish her research. Had she lived, she might still have found it challenging to get the recognition she deserved. Worse still, a male colleague took credit for her work after she died, though a later research scientist helped reinstate full acknowledgment of her remarkable work. At that time achieving recognition for successful research was an arduous task and a particular struggle for women.
Fast forward to 2017 when Open Therapeutics introduces Therapoid™, a research platform that launches this summer. With this new digital community, researchers worldwide will have the opportunity to take credit for their research, through collaboration of shared data and publication of their manuscripts. With Therapoid, today’s research community will have access to a digital platform that truly advances the open data principle.
In addition to its breakthrough research capabilities, Therapoid will resolve one of the current problems of competition among researchers for publications and citations, a disincentive to data sharing. Current practice does not include the data producers as authors on papers published by subsequent data users. Thus, producers have little incentive to make the effort to share data, which they might themselves use in future publications. That will change with Therapoid as it offers cooperative authorship of research.
Sharing of data used and produced in biomedical research is still not practiced widely enough in the biomedical sphere, although it has been called for by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the UK Research Council and others. There is a pervasive culture of peer review and perceived risk of being “scooped,” which are among the issues that have prevented the widespread adoption of biomedical data sharing, says Leigh Finnegan in her 2015 article Publish or Perish – How Can Publishers Support Open Data in DataScience@NIH . She writes that for those building their careers, and particularly for underrepresented groups who already face barriers in academia, being open isn’t as popular as it is likely to be in the future. Therapoid will make it more likely that data and science researchers will collaborate more freely.
“There’s a generation of scientists who are running labs and running tenure committees who were brought up on a very different system,” says Virginia Barbour, who has worked at the Public Library of Science—one of the groups at the forefront of the open access battle. “I have huge hopes on the generation that’s coming up, because they’re a generation built on openness and availability….” (Rose Eveleth’s, Free Access to Science Research Doesn’t Benefit Everyone, The Atlantic, Twitter @roseeveleth).
Open Therapeutics’ Therapoid expects to be one of the most exciting drivers of that openness and availability.