This is welcome and really exciting news from a clinician and patient empowerment perspective. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and ASCO's Conquer Cancer Foundation have announced the PatientACCESS initiative enabling free full text access to ASCO's two primary journals. You can read the details here on Cancer.Net. Through an agreement between ASCO, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), four other publishers, and the Copyright Clearance Center, patients and their caregivers can now get full access to research articles published in ASCO's Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) and Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP). Previously, access to abstracts was free for all, but full text access at the time of publication was available only to dues-paying ASCO members and those with institutional subscriptions, such as libraries, hospitals, and medical schools. Non-subscribers wanting access would either have to either pay a per-article fee, which could be pretty hefty, or wait 12 months when open access was available to all. Now, by clicking the "PatientACCESS" link at the bottom of the abstract page, you will be taken to the RightsLink website, and after agreeing to the Terms and Conditions, you will receive a copy of the article as a PDF delivered via email. (Also, it's important to note that some JCO content, such as ASCO Special Articles, Editorials, Comments and Controversies papers, the Art of Oncology series, and Correspondence has always been free; that's not changing.)
The JCO is ASCO's flagship journal where cancer research findings are published, and it's one of the most widely read and cited cancer journals in the world. The JOP is a newer journal, and it focuses on the mechanics of oncology practice, including such topics as health care delivery, quality of care, and business practices. Both journals are indexed in the National Library of Medicine through Medline and can be accessed via PubMed or their individual web sites above.
For the JCO in particular, it's nice for patients to now have full access to the same articles their doctors are reading. While an abstract can convey the main points, the full detail of the study, including background, methods, results, and discussion, is now available. If you read about a study only by reviewing the abstract, you can miss some of the nuances and clinical implications - true for clinicians and patients alike.
A number of people have rightfully criticized the "paywall" that keeps this research from being freely available to all. The argument is that, since much biomedical research is paid for using taxpayers' dollars, they have every right to see the results as soon as they come out. There was lively discussion about this on the #hcsm Tweetchat last night. That argument makes a lot of sense, although it's not always that simple. JCO and JOP, for example, are self-published by ASCO, and they are a benefit of membership. Membership dues, in addition to advertising, support their publication. Even if the print version was discontinued (and despite this being the digital era, many subscribers do not want to part with their paper issues just yet), there is obviously a cost to produce a scientific journal that has to be borne by someone. This economic reality isn't going away anytime soon, but it is great news that at least for patients, caregivers, and advocates, they can get full, free direct access to these JCO and JOP research articles, which might very well have immediate relevance to their health.
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