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Open Access to Research Vital to Student Success

Jack Andraka was the 2012 Gordon E. Moore award winner at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In this video, created by the Right to Research Coalition, Jack speaks with Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, about the importance of open access to scientific research for his project creating a diagnostic for early pancreatic cancer.  Below, Nick Shockey, Director of the Right to Research Coalition and Director of Student Advocacy at SPARC, who created the video, responds to a Q & A about open access for students.

What is the Right to Research Coalition?

The Right to Research Coalition is an international alliance of more than 60 student organizations. These organizations represent approximately 7 million students from more than 100 countries that have come together to support Open Access – the idea that all research articles should be freely available online with full reuse rights. The Coalition has two primary goals: to educate students and the next generation about what open access to research means and to advocate for policies that make scientific and scholarly research available to the public free of charge.

SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an organization that represents more than 200 academic and research libraries across the United States and Canada and works to create a more open system of scholarly communication. SPARC focuses on education and advocacy like the Right to Research Coalition, but also on incubating new business models that support open scholarly communication.

Why did you create this video featuring Jack Andraka?

Jack’s award-winning project is a fantastic example of the unexpected innovation and breakthroughs that can and do happen when anyone with an Internet connection can get access to research articles. Jack has discussed in the past, and in this video, how free access to scientific research helped him develop his early detection diagnostic for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. He has a particularly compelling story, although he is not alone. Many other students, including others working on high-quality projects and competing in Intel ISEF, but also a broader group, have benefitted tremendously from the ability to search for publications online and use resources such as PubMed Central.

PubMed Central (PMC) is a free, online repository for research articles in the biomedical sciences. The National Institutes of Health has been a pioneer in requiring research that the NIH funds be made freely available online through PMC within 12-months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Dr. Collins has been very supportive of this requirement and frequently talks about how successful the policy has been.

Why is open access for students important?

Students can benefit tremendously from early exposure to the scientific literature. It can be particularly challenging for high-school students and teachers to access up to date research because journal subscriptions are often very expensive. In addition, many of these students (Jack included) are too young to drive, making reaching a university campus, where they might be able to gain access, a difficult feat. Gifted students, such as those who compete at the Intel ISEF, need access to this research in order to develop novel ideas and push the cutting edge of their disciplines. Motivated students are finding workarounds, but these workarounds aren’t without cost and can still leave them without access to much of what they need.

What if my student organization is interested in learning more about open access or joining the Right to Research Coalition?

We want to connect more with both the high school student and educator communities. We welcome the opportunity to work with any student organization. To join the Coalition, a group only needs to formally endorse our Student Statement on Right to Research. Additional information is available on our website at

You can follow Nick on Twitter at @R2RC or contact him through email at

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