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Computational researchers pledge openness in COVID-19 studies

Hundreds of researchers commit to sharing data and tools so they can better work together to understand and treat SARS-CoV-2

by Sam Lemonick
May 7, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 18


More than 200 scientists have signed a pledge to share their biomolecular simulation data from studies of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (J. Chem. Inf. Model. 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jcim.0c00319). The authors of the pledge, Rommie E. Amaro of the University of California San Diego and Adrian J. Mulholland of the University of Bristol, say that more openness and collaboration in the molecular simulation community will lead to better models of how SARS-CoV-2 infects people and how to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The signers of the pledge commit to submitting preprints of their results and releasing data sets, analytical methods, and models that would let other researchers reproduce or analyze their results. They also pledge to license their methods for others to use when possible. Mulholland notes that researchers may be limited in what they can share by software copyright restrictions or if they work in industry. However, nearly all the commitment’s signers work in universities or research institutes.

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Amaro and Mulholland say researchers are already following through on their commitment in the month since the pledge went public. The two also say that more scientists are welcome to join in the pledge.

Matthieu Chavent, an open-science advocate and molecular modeler at the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology, hopes to see these principles maintained beyond the current crisis. But he points out that the field will need new commitments from journals and infrastructure like databases before these commitments can spread more widely.



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