Open Access – How open should we be allowed to access?

The basic summary of this topic. Video by Adelene Teo, created in PowToon

Without the wealth of Internet, in creating this post I would have to travel to library to search for relevant books and photocopied pages that I deemed as useful. Now, open access (OA) of Internet in websites such as Google Scholar, Springer has significantly improve the accessibility of knowledge to every Internet user anytime and anywhere, without having to have the financial capability to pay for every article read.

What is Open Access (OA)?

It refers to allowing individuals and institutions unrestricted access to content published in scholarly, peer-reviewed publications. Unlike the traditional subscription-based publishing models, open access content is available without having to purchase or subscribe to the book or journal in which the content is published. (I.G.I Global, 2016)

However, have we ever take a step back and ponder upon the creator of these content made online? They are content producer (CP).

Advantages to a content producer of making their materials freely available online


Overview of Advantages of OA to content producer – Illustration by Adelene Teo

With distribution of their scientific research made available free, I believe it helps to branch out CP’s, or CP’s institution networks and motivates prospective learners in researching specific subject. By openly publishing, creating online resources/tutorials, actively responding to audience in exchanging information, a CP benefits through integrating openness into their identity. With more of publication easily accessed, more people can easily cite their articles. In 2014, Nature Communications revealed that median of OA articles were cited 4 times more than of subscription-only articles. With increased citation, a CP’s scientific knowledge will enjoy exposure which helps to gain credibility and recognition. This establish a reputation as academic keynote circuit in a respective field of study.

Open access education’s reach is wide. Education is defined as “an enterprise of sharing”. If a teacher is not sharing what he or she knows with students, there is no education happening. (EduCause, 2012). People across all age and social status will be able access information online for free as long as they have Internet. In a comparison, higher education college students can spend an average $900 per year just on textbooks – compared to scientific knowledge that can be “aggregated, printed, and delivered to thousands of students for a little more than $5 per book.” With free learning, more people have a chance to be better educated at much lower cost.

UNSW (University of New South Wales)’s video on making their research publicly available to reach as wide an audience as possible. They have defined it as “Global Education”. 

Disadvantages to a content producer of making their materials freely available online


Disadvantage of giving free content online – Illustration by Adelene Teo

By providing open access to their scientific research, CP is playing a role akin to social workers, where they contribute to an important progress to the society but receive no monetary gain in return. Even though articles are free to read, they are still not free to produce.

Cost_of_publishing2.jpgAverage cost of publishing fee-charging open-access journals active in 2010 ranges from $8 – $3,900 [Image taken from here]

CP has to rely on advertising, corporate sponsorships, subsidies, donations, and partnerships to generate revenue. Time taken for intense scientific research, editorial process are costly. Depending on the size and how in-depth the research is, “publishing fees can be thousands of dollars for each paper“. As a CP, it is extremely daunting to have a career with unreliable source of income. They may have benefitted the public with their research, however a CP might be left with unreliable source of income.

Open access journals published in the United States (as listed in DOAJ) revealed that very few, only 4.8% of 1,079  appear to ask for and accept donations from readers. Source from here

In conclusion, I wholeheartedly agrees on OA. With richer content, there will be more prospective learners in that area of expertise. However, we users have to be responsible in using OA information by properly citing source. More school institutions & governments should take initiatives in sponsoring or offering grants for researchers in order to reduce the burden of publishing and research costs!

(456 words, excluding references, headers, in-text citations)


Creative Commons, 2014 “Copyright Week: Read-only access is not enough” [online] (Accessed at 15/11/2016)

Research Information Network, 2014 “Nature Communications: citation analysis” [online](Accessed at 15/11/2016)

EduCause, Center for American Progress, 2012 “How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning” [online] (Accessed at 15/11/2016)

Nature, Richard van Noorden, 2013 “Open access: The true cost of science publishing” [online] (Accessed at 15/11/2016)

The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 2015 “Donations as a Source of Income for Open Access Journals: An Option To Consider?” [online] (Accessed at 15/11/2016)

The Atlantic, 2014 “Free Access to Science Research Doesn’t Benefit Everyone” [online] (Accessed at 15/11/2016)


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Adelene Teo

Food | Gaming | Drawing ( ◕‿◕✿) And everything nice.

7 thoughts on “Open Access – How open should we be allowed to access?”

  1. Hey Adeline,
    Indeed, Open Access is beneficial to the mass! However you mentioned, “Even though articles are free to read, they are still not free to produce.” Is it really free to read the articles? Although government funded the Open Access, where does government’s fund come from? Aren’t those money come from the tax payers, i.e. our parents or perhaps us if we have started working? (Nick Shockey & Jonathan Eisen, 2012). Also, you have encouraged institutions to sponsor Open Access. This begs the question, “where do the institutions’ funds come from then?” Aren’t those parents who pay the school fees with their hard-earned money? As such, can the articles still be considered as free, despite the fact that the articles are perceived as free by many people?

    (Nick Shockey & Jonathan Eisen, 2012)


    1. Hello, Jim! You bring up an interesting point.

      It is true that OA is technically not free, but as the economists said: “there is no such thing as free lunch”. As you mentioned, the funds have to come from somewhere.

      I believe that without OA, the cumulative expenses spent in purchasing each article would have been much more costly than the increased tax/school fee. Each reading material can cost up to hundreds, imagine having to purchase tons of them. Furthermore, I believe it’s a justifiable expenses, as the funds used will help to advance the movement of scientific knowledge and learning initiatives of the learners. I imagine that if I were to be a parent, I would want my child to be exposed to these materials out there. Hence, if not “free”, I believe you can view it as a method that can significantly reduce education cost.

      I certainly still view it as “free”, as even in websites such as Google Scholar, I was able to browse through many local and worldwide articles without having to log in to insitutions (of course, with restrictions to number of pages we can read, but most of the time I found it sufficient enough to understand the subject). Hence, I believe the expenses we paid to fund education are worth the access to wide library of worldwide OA articles we are given.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting, I hope it clears out your doubts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Adelene, we have mentioned similar challenges faced by Open Access (OA) producers in our posts. I share the points that you have raised regarding the prevalence and limitations of OA to content producers., when you said,

    “Depending on the size and how in-depth the research is, “publishing fees can be thousands of dollars for each paper.”

    I was thinking perhaps one way to go around this is for research institutions to come together to collaborate and cost share. Another way is to tap into 2nd tier resources like utilizing PhD interns rather than professors.

    Do you think these are possibilities to reduce the financial burden on content producers ?


    1. Hello Nobusato! You have bring up a very good point and suggestion.

      I think topic of reducing financial burden is highly subjective. I agree with the notion of utilizing PhD interns in order to involve younger generations while reducing cost, however I think there’s a moderate chance of setbacks and research will take longer time to compile, which may lead to higher cost.

      But going by your suggestion, an institution may offer several of their brightest PhD student interns to assist a researcher, while in exchange researcher obtains grants and sponsorships from the following institutions. Honestly, so far that’s the solution within our capabilities that I can think of.

      The cost of publication is a strange one, it’s financially stressing more to researchers who want to research in-depth, yet it favours less detailed research with less cost.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting, I hope it clears out your doubts 🙂


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