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.
Average 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)