I know for a fact that I would not have been able to conduct my literature review for my dissertation if I did not have access to journals and academic papers. This is a widely acknowledged benefit of having open access (see Eisen and Shockey, 2012). Furthermore, ‘college students spend an average of $900 per year on textbooks’ (Wiley, Green and Louis, 2012). Even though this is a statistic for American Universities I believe the point still stands – having access to online textbooks for free massively reduces student debt. But this blog isn’t focusing on the impact of open access on users, but producers.
Historically open access was relied upon as a cheap way to distribute scientific ideas and increase knowledge and societal progress (Eisen and Shockey, 2012). However, nowadays, the balance of power has changed and journals have a strong monopoly over material. Furthermore, open access doesn’t just apply to academic literature but to newspapers as well (Lepitac, 2013). Many newspapers such as the Financial Times and the Telegraph hide their content behind a paywall.
The debate over open access is complicated and has only really gathered pace, in the last couple of years, because of ethical concerns that
‘all knowledge should be freely available to everybody’ (British Academy, 2013)
and that universities are morally obliged to provide open access because they are funded by tax payers (Ibid).
Below I have created an infographic, using piktochart, that discusses in more detail the advantages and disadvantages of open access to the content producer and illustrates that both arguments have considerable merit.
It is clear that one of the biggest obstacles that discourages researchers and writers from embracing open access is how to make money and get credit for their work. Interestingly, a company is trying a new approach to overcome this problem. Below is the case study I made using PowToon.
Another way forward with open access, which is popularly cited is ‘gold’ vs. ‘green’ access. Gold is where the author pays a publishing fee. Conversely, ‘green’ access is where, after authors have been accepted into a journal they then make it openly available online (Freedman and Anyangwe, 2012) – both options have received mixed review ( you can read more here).
But what is perhaps a forgotten solution is instead of charging the consumers or the producers, subsidise the journals so they then pass down these lower costs to people who want to access their research papers. Interesting thought. I wonder what the downsides to this would be….any suggestions?