In this series of interviews, we talked to authors and editors of books about how publishing open access (OA) has extended their impact and reach, something that is especially important to topics supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We spoke to Professor Myron Christodoulides, editor of the OA book Vaccines for Neglected Pathogens: Strategies, Achievements and Challenges, about the development of vaccines for leprosy, leishmaniasis, meliodoisis, and tuberculosis, four of the so-called Neglected Tropical Diseases.
My book, titled Vaccines for Neglected Pathogens: Strategies, Achievements and Challenges, reviews the successes and challenges in vaccine development for four Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs): Leprosy, leishmaniasis, meliodoisis, and tuberculosis, which are a continuous burden for millions of people in affected areas worldwide.
These four NTDs are the focus diseases of the VALIDATE (VAccine deveLopment for complex Intracellular neglecteD pAThogEns) Network. VALIDATE is an international network of researchers whose goals are to accelerate the development of vaccines for the four pathogens causing these diseases. It was established in June 2017 in response to a United Kingdom Medical Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund grant call for ‘Networks to address vaccine R&D challenges primarily relevant to the health or prosperity of Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC)’.
Since its establishment, the Network has expanded globally and it brings together academics and clinical investigators, public health scientists, administrators, and policy makers. Diversity of the network is its strongest feature and enables scientific collaboration between individuals from the least developed, LMIC, and developed countries.
I broached the idea of the book to the Network, and they were keen to fund the publication of the book as an OA book. Many of the chapters are written by researchers from LMIC countries, where these diseases are endemic, and where the accessibility of an OA book is particularly valuable.
The book contributes to the aim of ultimately ending the epidemics of Neglected Tropical Diseases and is thus directly related to SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being. As the SDGs are intertwined, other related topics from across the SDGs are also of relevance. Improving the health of people that suffer from these diseases will lead to increased life expectancy, economic growth, and development for the individual and the nation. It will likewise contribute to alleviating poverty and the often-discriminatory access to healthcare services.
VALIDATE has three main aims: 1) to create an engaged and interactive community of global researchers; 2) to accelerate vaccine development for the four pathogens; 3) to help Early Career Researcher (ECR) members of the Network to progress their careers.
The short-term goals of the Network were to prime-pump fund collaborative projects on these four pathogens for up to a year, to provide ECR fellowships and training grants that enable researchers to move globally to learn new techniques. The focus has now moved onto tuberculosis specifically in terms of funding. For the medium term, the goals are to move experimental vaccines from the pre-clinical phase to phase I testing, which has been done recently with a melioidosis vaccine. The longer-term outlook would be uptake of successful vaccines by at-risk populations globally.
Since its publication on March 28th, 2023, the book has been accessed ~19K times, which indicates considerable interest amongst the tight scientific community engaged in Neglected Tropical Diseases research. A significant benefit of publishing this as an OA book is the exposure of the VALIDATE Network and its contributing authors to the scientific community at large.
The OA book provides freely accessible up-to-date information on vaccine development for neglected pathogens. I think it’s an important resource for researchers from disadvantaged countries who have limited funds for research and library fees, many of which are also combating these epidemics.
Specifically for a publication related to the SDGs, the benefit of publishing OA is substantial. Publications supporting the achievement of the SGDs are often found in rather dense productions from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and other global intergovernmental agencies. I think there is a need for more publications in these areas that are accessible, with information distilled into a form that engages the public.
The book was funded by VALIDATE, to make the content OA and freely available to scientific communities as well as anyone interested in these diseases.
Most of the books that I have edited or contributed to have been published using the traditional model of paying royalties to editors and contributors and have not been OA. This would be my default option if funds were unavailable for publishing OA, and a reward for the often-considerable efforts of authors and editors in producing and editing manuscripts.
However, if the project includes papers from the members of a society or a network that is publicly funded, then these societies/networks may have funds specifically to support OA. My advice is to talk to your contact at the publishing house about OA fees and then to your networks, to see if they are interested in funding OA.
Short answer is yes – this is the only way that such a book on neglected tropical diseases can provide information without cost to those populations of the least developed and low-to-middle income countries that are afflicted by these diseases. This is the most straightforward way to stimulate collaboration and information exchange. The book and chapter downloads are of high quality as is the hard copy, which is still produced for those of us who like the tactile feel of books on shelves.
Myron Christodoulides is Professor of Bacteriology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, UK. His research interests are in bacterial and parasitic pathogens causing diseases in humans and animals, with projects focused on the development of vaccines, novel antimicrobials and rapid diagnostics. His works involve colleagues and collaborators globally and he is a recent Academy of Medical Sciences Hamied Foundation UK-India AMR Visiting Professor.