London, UK (Scicasts) — Open science platform F1000Research has launched the new Zika and Arbovirus Outbreaks (ZAO) channel to enable fast publication and sharing of new research in this field.

The channel accepts articles on Zika and other arboviruses such as Dengue and Yellow Fever.

The launch follows the announcement from the World Health Organization that Zika-linked birth defects and neurological problems pose a global public health emergency.

Zika virus, previously considered to be a relatively insignificant disease, was recently found to be implicated in such serious conditions as microcephaly (neurodevelopmental disorder in which an infant's head is smaller than normal) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (rare auto-immune condition damaging the peripheral nervous system).

The new channel builds on key learnings from global response to Ebola crisis, where open data sharing played crucial role and was subsequently included in recommendations for the next pandemic.

ZAO will serve as a platform for scientists and clinicians to publish their findings and source data on Zika and its mosquito vectors, within days of submission, so that research, medical and government personnel can keep abreast of the rapidly evolving outbreak.

The channel provides diamond-access, allowing readers free access to all its content under the Creative Commons Attribution License and waiving the article processing charges for the authors.

Other open access publishers, such as PLOS and ScienceOpen, have similarly declared that all research published with them on the Zika virus will be published rapidly and free of charge.

ScienceOpen is integrating all articles relating to the Zika outbreak into their pre-existing Zika Virus collection, whereas PLOS recommends such articles to be submitted to PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases or PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.

The need for new open publishing channels such as ZAO is evidenced in a recent report on the global response to the Ebola virus issued by an Independent Panel from Harvard Global Health Institute and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“One of the key conclusions of the recent Harvard-LSHTM report into the global response to Ebola was that rapid, open data sharing is essential in disease outbreaks of this kind and sadly it did not happen in the case of Ebola,” says Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director of F1000.

“As the world faces its next health crisis in the form of the Zika virus, F1000Research has acted swiftly to create a free, dedicated channel in which scientists from across the globe can share new research and clinical data, quickly and openly. We believe that it will play a valuable role in helping to tackle this health crisis.”

Scientists who are directly involved in research on Zika and other infectious diseases seem to fully share this opinion.

Dr. Megan Coffee, an infectious disease clinician at the International Rescue Committee in New York, says: “What's published six months, or maybe a year or two later, won't help you - or your patients - now. If you're working on an outbreak, as a clinician, you want to know what you can know - now. It won't be perfect, but working in an information void is even worse. So, having a way to get information and address new questions rapidly is key to responding to novel diseases.”

Dr. Coffee is also a co-author of an article published in the ZAO channel on February 9, calling for rapid mobilization and adoption of open practices in an important strand of the Zika response: drug discovery.

“We think that we would see rapid progress if there was some call for an open effort to develop drugs for Zika,” says Sean Ekins, of Collaborative Drug Discovery, and lead author of the article ‘Open drug discovery for the Zika virus’, also published in ZAO. “This would motivate members of the scientific community to rally around, and centralize open resources and ideas.”

Another co-author, of the article, Lucio Freitas-Junior of the Brazilian Biosciences National Laboratory, adds: “It is important to have research groups working together and sharing data, so that scarce resources are not wasted in duplication.

“This should always be the case for neglected diseases research, and even more so in the case of Zika.”

You can find more information about F1000Research and other Open Access publishers in a recent Scicasts Insights report “Open Science Revolution – New Ways of Publishing Research in The Digital Age”.