Without textbooks we would have no education or research

Jaakko Kaprio, professor of genetic epidemiology, uses research equipment worth hundreds of thousands of euros, but he knows that it would be worthless without high-standard research literature.

“The Helsinki University Library is a core infrastructure,” says Professor Jaakko Kaprio.

 “Without books, we would have no educated researchers or experts, and no education in general. We could have the finest sequencing equipment, but it would be useless if we didn’t have literature explaining what to do with it,” he says.

Kaprio began his research career in 1976, so he has witnessed the transition from printed resources to electronic ones. He has been well served throughout this shift by the University’s libraries.

­ “Making sure various resources are available is the main issue for all teaching and research. We take this availability for granted and sometimes forget the role that libraries had in making it possible,” he says.

The availability of electronic resources has been further improved at the Faculty of Medicine, as all new students are given iPads from the Faculty.

­ “I think this befits Finnish society, where we have a tradition of supporting education regardless of background,” says Kaprio.

Research instruments and analysis methods have developed side by side with the digitalisation of resources. This development means that new results are being rapidly gained, for example, in genomics. The slow peer review and publication processes of traditional academic journals are ill suited to this trend.

Open publishing brings results to the academic community faster

Research results are increasingly being made available to everyone online, and are open for commenting and further use even before they are published in academic journals.

According to Kaprio, another factor supporting openness specifically in genetic research is that it is typically conducted as international cooperation between many research groups. 

 “Open access publishing gives us the opportunity to start a scientific debate about the research immediately. Publishing is currently in the midst of a radical change, and the library must continue to disseminate information even in this challenging situation,” says Kaprio.

Naturally, reading non-peer-reviewed research results demands particular care from the researcher, even though Kaprio does not believe the traditional peer-review system to be a universal stamp of quality.

 “At the beginning of the academic career, learning to read and evaluate the literature is one of the most challenging skills,” says Kaprio.

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