The increasing use of the Internet has led to an influx of digital information. In the academic world of Medicine alone, over two brand new papers are published every minute (Hall, 2014). This, in combination with the decline of print media (Schlesinger and Doyle, 2015) has led to the prediction that 90% of online content would be behind paywalls as of 2016 (Lepitak, 2013). Open access typically refers to the free, instant, online availability of online content with permissions to reuse for free (Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics), 2012).
The increase in scientific work published online and increase in news consumption online has opened the debate over whether open access is good or bad. The infographic below explores these debates:
There are clearly many complexities in assessing the advantages and disadvantages of open access. It is also important to note that it cannot be labelled ‘beneficial in all circumstances’ or not. Ultimately, it is up to the content producer to assess whether the positives outweigh the negatives. One of the most important arguments in favour of open access is the ability to teach those who cannot always receive an adequate education. In particular, initiatives like the Khan Academy and the African Leadership Academy have been able to connect with and educate young people outside of the classroom (Dunn, 2013). As a result, more people have called upon university leaders to turn their attention towards open access (Hall, 2014).
However, a large problem with open access resides with the cost incurred. Whilst online articles are much cheaper than publishing print copies, as demonstrated in Figure 2, there can be large costs for researchers to publish their work in a journal (Truth, 2012). Although open access articles have proven to increase citations (Gargouri et al, 2005), it is wrong to assume all researchers and content producers have large sums of money readily available for publishing.
I believe open access articles should work to be more prevalent in the online community, for the benefit of students, researchers, the less-fortunate and anyone with an interest in a particular field. However, I think it is unacceptable for journals to be charging such large amounts of money to researchers to publish their work. I also argue that the more notable journals should consider open access in order to disprove the theory that open access articles can be of a lower quality.
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Björk, B. and Solomon, D. (2012). Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact. BMC Medicine, [online] 10(1). Available at: http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/696/art%253A10.1186%252F1741-7015-10-73.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fbmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com%2Farticle%2F10.1186%2F1741-7015-10-73&token2=exp=1494183488~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F696%2Fart%25253A10.1186%25252F1741-7015-10-73.pdf*~hmac=5f1572f65e8479876cfabf3f4579d954940dd1d4b554b163c0401649161ba9aa [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Center for American Progress (2012). Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER. [online] Available at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED535639.pdf [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Dunn, D. (2013). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Forbes. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/education-finally-ripe-for-radical-innovation-by-social-entrepreneurs/#28d660b65081 [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Larivière, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L., Brody, T. and Harnad, S. (2010). Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research. PLoS ONE, [online] 5(10), p.e13636. Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013636&type=printable [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Hall, M. (2014). Why open access should be a key issue for university leaders. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/feb/18/open-access-key-issue-university-leaders?CMP=twt_gu [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Lepitak, S. (2013). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. [online] The Drum. Available at: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests [Accessed 7 May 2017].
McCabe, M. and Snyder, C. (2005). Open Access and Academic Journal Quality. The American Economic Review, [online] 95(2), pp.453-458. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4132864 [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics) (2012). Open Access Explained!. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=L5rVH1KGBCY [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Schlesinger, P. and Doyle, G. (2015). From organizational crisis to multi-platform salvation? Creative destruction and the recomposition of news media. Journalism, [online] 16(3), pp.305-323. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884914530223 [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Truth, F. (2012). Pay big to publish fast: Academic journal rackets. Journal for Critical Education Policy, [online] 10(2). Available at: http://www.jceps.com/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/10-2-02.pdf [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Figure 1: Self-produced using Canva.com
Figure 2: Self-produced using Canva.com
Figure 3: Self-produced using Canva.com