As part of a massive international collaboration, we recently published several studies in Nature (Grubaugh et al., Metsky et al., Faria et al.) and Nature protocols (Quick et al.), investigating how Zika virus spread across the Americas. We showed, for example, how the virus established itself multiple times in Florida in the spring of 2016, and how these introductions were linked to the Caribbean. We also demonstrated that mosquito control is a very effective way of preventing human Zika virus infections.
All these studies would have been impossible without open sharing of data and protocols across partners. Instead of trying to ‘race’ each other to publish first, the entire viral genomics field came together to work towards a common goal – understanding how Zika is spreading and what to do about it. We shared our data and protocols directly on this website and other online resources immediately after data generation. Several other groups did the same, with everybody openly sharing data, analyses, and findings. This collaborative spirit undoubtedly made the data more accurate, the studies more compelling, and the findings stronger. The resultant studies – which were coordinated across four manuscripts with hundreds of authors – were initially published as pre-prints on bioRxiv to make the findings available as fast as possible.
Without the spirit of Open Science, none of these collaborations would have come together, and the science would have suffered. Our lab has been a strong believer in the importance of Open Science for a few years now, and in all cases has this boosted the strength of our studies tremendously. For us, free sharing of ideas, data, and findings have only come with positives and absolutely no negatives. We strongly recommend that other researchers consider doing the same – it is without a doubt the future of science.