HSE Open Access Research Awards

Celebrating Open Access

The HSE Open Access Research Awards were established in 2014 to encourage and reward open access publishing in the Irish health sector.

Submissions are invited from across a range of disciplines in health and social care.

About the Awards

The awards build on the HSE’s statement on Open Access publishing and the commitment to develop and promote open research. The award recognises health and social care professionals and those conducting research in the Irish health system. It is a route to promote research activity that improves the evidence and knowledge base underpinning our health services.

Open Access Awards 2020 – Acknowledging the Impact of  Covid-19

In a year unlike any other, we have all had to learn new ways of doing old things. Since their inception in 2014, the HSE Open Access awards have become a fixture in the health research calendar. When Covid-19 hit these shores in March 2020 it was initially thought that the event would have to be abandoned along with so many others.

However after some deliberation we decided to forge ahead with a modified version of the awards. The usual range of categories were replaced by just one – Covid-19 – and the entire process was moved online.

The awards normally judge research published in the last two years, so focusing on Covid-19 naturally limited the potential entries. Offsetting this however was the greatly increased level of research being carried out into the threat of the coronavirus – researchers in the Irish health services have been doing extraordinary work this year.

Open Access Awards montage of presenters and winners

A panel of judges was convened, covering a variety of disciplines. Each judged a selection of entries, and all papers were cross-checked to underpin the quality of the judging process. The top-scoring entries were further assessed by an external judge, who also chose an overall winner.

Presenting the Awards

The presentation of the awards is usually a convivial occasion in Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin, where attendees chat over mince pies and coffee. This year the venue was the humbler surroundings of a Webex teleconference, but the attendance was still sizeable and the ceremony enjoyable, despite minor technical hitches.

The National Health Librarian Aoife Lawton presented the awards, with speeches by Dr Ana Terrés of the Research & Development office, and the external judge Dr Jonathan Drennan.

Aoife revealed that the “European Commission…looked at 10 years of publishing globally between  2009-2018, and open access trends.  For these years, Ireland produced 45.9% of its publications in open access, so 54.1% was closed or required a fee to access.  The gap between closed and open access is closing.”

Prof. Drennan observed that a year ago the WHO had 8 resources on Covid-19 – now it is 136,642. In the context of this global research, Irish-based researchers have been making their mark. Prof. Drennan spoke about each of the winning entries and highlighted their individual qualities.

External Judge’s Comments

Jane McGrath’s paper “highlighted the challenges facing children and adolescents with AHHD – and their families – during Covid-19, but also solutions to enhancing the wellbeing of these children. An excellent and beautifully written paper.”

The paper by Dale Whelehan and colleagues “effectively and comprehensively presented the impact on surgeons and surgeons in training of working through Covid-19. It was a pleasure to read a high-quality qualitative research paper.”

The overall winning entry, by Dónal Ó Mathúna and colleagues was a “quality meta-analysis…that showed the value of international collaboration and demonstrated how powerful well-conducted systematic reviews can be. There’s no doubt that this publication provided evidence that will enhance clinician decision making, as well as providing care and treatment to patients with Covid-19.”

Reflecting on the many unanticipated consequences of the pandemic, Dr Terrés suggested that Covid-19 had “had the effect of making Open Access come to the fore in a way that has never happened before.” Nearly a hundred percent of Covid-19 papers, she said, had been made Open Access to ensure that information was available to fight the coronavirus with maximum efficiency. Dr Terrés contrasted this with the 20%-30% of Open Access papers in other medical areas, saying that there was a long way to go to achieve the levels of cooperation shown in relation to Covid-19. “I think this award is brilliant,” she added, “because it brings it to the fore of people’s minds and makes sure that the issue remains alive.”

The Winners

Runner up: Jane McGrath, ADHD and Covid-19: current roadblocks and future opportunities.

Runner up: Dale Whelehan and colleagues, COVID-19 and surgery: A thematic analysis of unintended consequences on performance, practice and surgical training.

Overall winner: Dónal Ó Mathúna and colleagues, Clinical, laboratory and radiological characteristics and outcomes of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection in humans: A systematic review and series of meta-analyses.