What is Open Access?
Within higher education, we all know the frustration that comes with finding a great journal article, only to find that it’s access is restricted. This has become a particular issue for me, a content consumer, over the course of writing my dissertation. However, what does restricted access and open access mean from the point of view of a content producer?
Figure 2. Pros and Cons of Open Access (self-produced via Biteable)
As shown, there are a number pros and cons that content producers must consider when choosing where to publish their work.
The Debate For
Despite the drawbacks, perceptions of open access appear to be improving. A study found that in 2014, 40% of scientists had concerns about the quality of open access publications, a figure which dropped to 27% in 2015 (Author Insights Survey, 2015).
An important argument for open access comes from the view that publicly funded research should be publicly available (Merkley, 2016). Whilst some argue that the people that really need access to scientific papers (researchers, medical professionals, academic students) have access through their institutions, what about the rest of the population who are left in the dark? (Browne, 2014). Over the past few years, the science community has recognised the flaws of restricted access, based on the idea that paywalls inhibit further research, education and innovation (Dunn, 2013). Moreover, some of the ethical issues discussed in Topic 4, such as the digital divide, may be reduced through the use of open access (Geib, 2013).
With many reasons for, you might be left thinking, “of course all online content should be free to access”. However, there are two sides to every coin…
The Debate Against
A major argument against open access comes from the perception that open access journals contain poorer quality articles (Curry, 2012). This has become a particular concern with the emergence of predatory publishing, or, the ‘dark side’ of open access (Pickler et al., 2014). Yet, from the perspective of the content producer, publishing open access can be as expensive, if not more expensive, than publishing via the traditional model (Geib, 2013). Furthermore, some argue that open access publishing runs the risk of demonising junior researchers and PhD students, who may often choose to publish their work in prestigious journals, behind paywalls, to boost their own career opportunities (Chambers, 2013). Should this choice not to go open access be considered selfish?
Overall, the debate on open access appears to create a conflict between what’s good for science and what’s good for scientists (Chambers, 2013). Whilst I am certainly in support of open access from the perspective of a content consumer, the arguments relating to the perspective of a content producer are not quite so clear-cut.
Author Insights Survey (2015). Nature Publishing Group.
Browne, T. (2014). Let’s shine a light on paywalls that deny open access to scientific research. The Guardian.
Chambers, C. (2013). Those who publish research behind paywalls are victims not perpetrators. The Guardian.
Curry, S. (2012). Set science free from publishers’ paywalls. New Scientist.
Dunn, D. (2013). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Forbes.
Geib, A. (2013). Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access. edanz editing.
Hitt, E. (2003). Pros and Cons of Open-Access Publishing Debated. Medscape.
Jisc (2016). An introduction to open access.
Merkley, R. (2016). You Pay to Read Research You Fund. That’s Ludicrous. Wired.
Pickler, R., Noyes, J., Perry, L., Roe, B., Watson, R., & Hayter, M. (2014). Authors and readers beware the dark side of Open Access. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(10). 2221-2223.
Wiley, D., Green, C., & Soares, L. (2012). Dramatically Bringing down the Cost of Education with OER. Center For American Progress.
Figure 1: Self-produced via Haiku Deck.
Figure 2: Self-produced via Biteable.
Figure 3: Self-produced via Canva.
Figure 4: Self-produced via Canva.