Better access to cancer care in Canada

A CIHR news release, dated 24 August 2007, is: Canada’s New Government Invests $10.1 Million for Better Access to Cancer Care from Prevention to Palliation.

Excerpts:

Canada’s New Government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in partnership with CancerCare Manitoba and Cancer Care Nova Scotia will provide the funding over the next five years to seven research teams.

“Evidence, based on solid scientific research, is key to informed health decision making. The 7 teams being funded today will provide exactly the kinds of evidence that cancer patients, policy makers and family doctors need to improve the quality of cancer care across Canada” stated Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“We are committed to working with provinces and healthcare experts to improve timely access to high quality health care, a top priority for CIHR and for all Canadians,” said Dr. Branton, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research. “These teams will advance knowledge in many areas that are of strategic importance to our health care system, and will ultimately allow for better access to cancer care for patients and their families.”

It seems self-evident the the “kinds of evidence that cancer patients, policy makers and family doctors need to improve the quality of cancer care across Canada” should be openly accessible, when the research that’s being described has been supported from public funds.

Note that 7 teams have been awarded funding. The leaders of these teams are listed below, together with information about their 5 previous publications that have been highest-ranked by Google Scholar.

1) Richard Doll (B.C. Cancer Agency): Of the first 5 articles that were co-authored by Richard Doll (not the Oxford epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll, now deceased), 3 were found to be freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 2001 and 2005.

2) Brenda Elias (University of Manitoba): Excluding contributions to books, all of the 5 highest-ranked articles or reports were found to be freely accessible (100%). These 5 were published between 1998 and 2006.

3) Eva Grunfeld (Dalhousie University / Cancer Care Nova Scotia): All 5 highest-ranked articles were found (one after an additional Google search) to be freely accessible (100%). These 5 were published between 2004 and 2006.

4) Alan Katz (University of Manitoba): Of the 5 highest-ranked publications, 3 were found to be freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 1998 and 2004.

5) William Mackillop (Queen’s University): Of the 5 highest-ranked articles, 3 were found to have at least one version that’s freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 1999 and 2000.

6) Devidas Menon (University of Alberta): No way was found to access any of the 5 highest-ranked articles (0%). However, an article in Health Affairs (2001) is freely accessible.

7) Scott Tyldesley (B.C. Cancer Agency): Of the 5 highest-ranked articles, one (published in 2005) was freely accessible, and 4 (published in 2003 and 2004) were accessible by patients in need of medical information, via Elsevier’s Patient Research Beta.

Excerpt from About Patient Research:

Elsevier has launched a beta pilot that supports patients and their family members looking for medical information; providing access to individual full text journal articles from selected Elsevier publications. The articles are delivered via email for a minimal handling fee of $4.95.

The pilot will help the individual journals assess the level of demand for medical information from the public and provide a public service to those in medical need. The journals testing this approach cover different medical fields and represent both publisher and society journals. These journals are testing this approach because they have content that is relevant to common medical conditions and are relatively straightforward to understand. …

Of the 35 articles, published previously by these 7 team leaders and highly-ranked by Google Scholar, 20 (about 60%) were found to be freely accessible.

Can this percentage (already a majority) be improved upon? In particular, will the new CIHR Policy on Access to Research Outputs increase such percentages? (For access to the policy, see: www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/34846.html) Outcomes of this kind from the policy won’t be available in the short term. What’s likely to be needed soon is a formative evaluation plan for the policy.

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4 Comments »

  1. […] Better access to cancer care in CanadaCanada s New Government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in partnership with CancerCare Manitoba and Cancer Care Nova Scotia will provide the funding over the next five years to seven research teams. … […]

  2. heathermorrison said

    Very interesting analysis, Jim – from my perspective, what is really impressive is that there seems to be a very high spontaneous rate for provision of open access (60%) for successful grant recipients – this was not only before the CIHR Open Access policy came into effect, but even before it was announced!

    Perhaps this data suggests a positive correlation between author’s provision of open access and success in obtaining grants. There are a number of factors which would tend to suggest such a correlation, including funding agencies’ preference for open access, greater accessibility of previous work to grant reviewers, the open access citation impact advantage, and the open access quality bias (tendency for the best authors and articles to be made openly accessible, whether by authors or publishers).

    I’ve written about this in my blogpost, 60% OA Track Record for Successful Grantees, at:

    http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com/2007/09/60-oa-track-record-for-successful.html

  3. tillje said

    Heather, these results from a small sample of 35 publications by 7 research-team leaders shouldn’t be over-interpreted. Of the 20 freely-accessible articles, 18 were published before 2006. Three were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (free one year after publication). Four were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ – free access immediately upon publication). These were two journals that were used most frequently by these 7 team leaders. Please note the delayed free access to articles published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

    Only 2 of the 20 freely-accessible articles in the sample were published in fully-OA journals (one in BMC Family Practice, and one in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes).

    Anita Palepu has pointed out the “important distinction between open- and free-access publication” in Open Medicine and open access, CMAJ 2007(Sep 11); 177(6): 606.

    Note added October 24, 2007:

    The data upon which this post was based are available via Google Docs, at:

    http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcjc9f6x_5g75czs

    Minor errors in the text of the post have been corrected. In particular, the number of freely-accessible articles was 20/35 (not 21/35, as originally posted).

  4. tillje said

    The results for this small sample of 35 articles, published previously by 7 research team leaders and highly-ranked by Google Scholar, showed 20 (57%) to be freely accessible. Very similar results have also been obtained for a larger sample of 110 articles, published previously (in the interval 1996-2007) by 11 members of the Research Advisory Committee 2006/2007 of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, and highly-ranked by Google Scholar. The results for 11 RAC members indicated that the free full text was accessible for 63 of the 110 highly-ranked publications (57%). There was, however, a great deal of variation in the results for individual RAC members.

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