Vice President Biden: Taxpayer-funded cancer research shouldn’t sit behind walls

Timothy Vollmer

On Wednesday in New Orleans, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the convening of the American Association for Cancer Research on the need to speed up scientific research, development, and collaboration that can lead to better cancer treatments.

Vice President Biden is leading the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which aims to accelerate cancer research and “make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.”

VP Joe Biden asks about CC’s Ryan Merkley’s op-ed in Wired from Matt Lee on Vimeo.

In his remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research, Biden discussed a broad global support for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. He talked about the importance of collaboration among cancer researchers, academic institutions, patient groups, the private sector, and government.

He made a commitment to cancer researchers to help break down barriers that get in the way of their work. One of the barriers is not having broad open access to cancer research and data. The Vice President asked about the types of innovative insights and discoveries that could be made possible with next generation supercomputers and openly accessible, machine readable text and data.

Biden spoke about realigning the incentives around sharing cancer data so that research and development can lead to better treatments, faster. He said, “taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.” Biden quoted Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, who this week published an op-ed in WIRED on the urgent imperative for open access to publicly funded cancer research:

 Imagine if instead we said we will no longer conceal cancer’s secrets in a paywall journal — pay-walled journals with restricted databases, and instead make all that we know open to everyone so that the world can join the global campaign to end cancer in our lifetimes? It’s a pretty good question. There may be reasons why it shouldn’t be answered like I think it should — and I’m going to hear from you, I hope, because I’ve not made these recommendations yet. But it seems to me this matters. This question matters.

In the op-ed, Merkley pushed for a fundamental change in the model for sharing and collaboration around scientific information, including cancer research: “An alternative system, where all publicly-funded research is required to be shared under a permissive license, would allow authors to unlock their content and data for re-use with a global audience, and co-operate in new discoveries and analysis.”

We’re grateful to see Vice President Biden’s continued support in the fight against cancer, and we’re committed to assisting in the efforts to ensure unrestricted access to cancer research for the public good.