Pros and Cons of Open Access

-We are drowning in digital information- (Hall, 2014)
Figure 1: Self-Produced using Canva.com

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:

Pros & Cons.png
Figure 2: Self-produced using Canva.com

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.

Lesson 2.8.png
Figure 3: Self-produced using Canva.com (Center for American Progress, 2012)

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.


Word Count: 396


References

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].

Image References

Figure 1: Self-produced using Canva.com

Figure 2: Self-produced using Canva.com

Figure 3: Self-produced using Canva.com

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15 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Open Access

  1. Hi Caiti,

    Well done for your post on this topic! You’re definitely mastering the use of infographics now and I consider the ones that you created for this post are really easy to understand and transmit a powerful message.

    I am interested to hear your point of view regarding the lack of access to some academic journals. Has it ever happened to you, to want to read a journal, but to need to pay for accessing it? Has this impacted any of your research during your studies at University? This article makes some good points relating open access to education and I found it to be an interesting read.

    Furthermore, you suggested the implementation of open access by high quality journals. Which scenario do you see more likely though: the perceived quality of these publication drops or the denial of the theory stating that open access means low quality?

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Andrei

    Word count: 156 words

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    1. Hi Andrei,

      Thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate the feedback!
      I have to say I don’t think saying open access for higher quality journals decreases their quality at all. I don’t see a reason why the same journals can’t have the same rigorous procedure of ensuring the best work gets published. I also don’t believe that as a writer or researcher you should personally have to shell out thousands to get your work in ‘impact factor’ journals. The scientific community has a duty to continue to develop good quality research for future generations and this should override any greed for more money. Do you agree? Or would you say making those journals open access would lower the quality?

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      1. Hi Caiti and thanks for your reply!

        I am on the same line with you regarding the open access of journals. I think that their experience can make a difference in maintaining a high-quality standard which will allow them to remain reputable. However, there is one thought which makes me question myself. We look at the model proposed by Wikipedia, allows anyone to edit the content and at the same time to use their encyclopaedia for free. At the same time, they mainly survive from donations. So, what if the academic journals are heading in the same direction?…

        It was interesting to listen to your thoughts. Thank you!
        Andrei

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      2. I think Wikipedia is a great model. It eliminates annoying advertising that can clog up pages (Facebook for eg is just an ad haven). I’ve seen other newspapers online use this method as well like The Guardian. I guess we could view it as a type on mini tax we pay, if that makes sense? The only worry with this is that it’s specifically voluntary and isn’t that much of a sustainable model. Maybe the best method is some kind of combination, whereby they could rely on donations but a few ads here and there to help out.
        At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with just relying on a bit of money to keep journals going – I think their main purpose should be to develop education and not to for-profit business. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Your point is definitely valid! I agree with you and would be interesting to see them heading in the same direction, as they would remain sustainable, without infringing any legal or ethical principles.

        Thanks for the discussion!

        Like

  2. Hi Caiti,

    I really enjoyed your post on this topic, and I think that the infographics you created worked really well in conveying the information in a simple way!

    In the infographic of the pros and cons of open access, one of the cons was that “online news media cannot make the same profits”. If these media outlets were more focused on bringing the news to people, do you think that the disparity between the amount of profit gained through different mediums would matter as much? Take YouTube, their videos are free to watch (barring the new YouTube Red videos), and those who monetize their videos do so through ads that play before/during the content. Do you think that it’s possible to utilise open access content, but also use ads to generate some sort of income instead of having subscription based services?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    Andy

    (Word count: 150)

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    1. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your lovely comments!

      Advertising is definitely a way forward to generate income, I do however feel that it’s getting a little crazy in recent years. Videos on Facebook and Youtube are even interrupted half way through for an ad and in my personal experience it ruins the viewing experience slightly.
      Perhaps the best way forward is to offer two types of subscription, one free with ads like Spotify and and one with a charge but ad light, like Spotify premium. Do you agree? Or do you think content producers should stick to one or the other?

      Caiti

      Like

  3. Hi Cati,
    I really enjoyed reading your post this week and thought the self-developed infographics were very helpful in presenting your thoughts and supporting material. I’m interested to know if at any point the lack of access or incentive to purchase academic journals has ever prevented you from carrying out university based work. If there was a free alternative or whether you had to purchase the journal just to complete a single piece of work. Furthermore, do you feel there is still an incentive for publishers or producers to primarily publish work to paper. Also, what are personal opinions on whether the quality of work drastically decreases just because it is open access. For example, if you were to produce an academic journal would you make it open access or make it subscription based.
    Many thanks,
    Ausaf Khan
    Words: 140

    Like

    1. Hi Ausaf!

      Thanks for the feedback!

      I do have to say that I haven’t had that many issues encountering blocked papers etc. But then again I am very grateful for the university subscriptions to several journals which have played a significant role in my uni work! I think without the uni already having these subscriptions I would definitely find work a lot harder. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve found a paper that I can’t get access to which is slightly annoying but there’s so many out there I’ve always been able to find a different one on the same topic. What about you? I think this might vary between degrees and me doing politics means it’s probably a lot easier to gain access to the info I need!

      On your second point, I do still think there is incentive and that’s the opportunity to have your work published in a journal which is a great achievement in itself! I’ve had a discussion on another blog about this and I don’t think making all journals open access decreases the quality at all, there’s no reason why journals can’t maintain the same standards when choosing work as they do now. I think in the academic community education should be more of a priority than business and for that reason I would make all journals open access.

      Like

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  5. Hi Caiti,

    I really enjoyed your informative post on this ongoing topic of debate, the infographics you created were very detailed in explaining the pros and cons to open access. I especially liked the link the medical papers, where two are published every minute. Bearing in mind that medical students are advised to use sources from the last 5 years, do you think that this would have an impact on the quality of publications?

    Furthmore, some have sought to create free and open learning tools for internet users, as explored in your post, for those that still want to publish their work in journals, do you think that there is anything that can be done to subsidies researchers and scientists?

    Ollie

    Word Count: 121

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