Topic 5: Open Access for the Average Academic


What is open access? Click here to find out…

Clearly, disparity exists with regard to knowledge accessibility in today’s society. Paradoxically, it appears that despite an increasingly digital society, information is not effectively reaching the intended audience. This is because journals charge for access rights; they essentially have a monopoly on research dissemination (Harnad et al., 2004). Some even claim that journal prices have outstripped inflation by 260% (PHD, 2012). Slowly but surely, the world of academia is taking steps to close this gap in an attempt to ensure that knowledge is accessible to all. With over 90% of journals being deemed ‘green’ (Figure 5.1) (Harnad et al., 2004, p.313), open access is clearly a salient issue, but its advantages and disadvantages are arguably less clear. This blog post analyses these implications through the lens of a content producer, namely an academic writer.

Green & gold OA journals.
Figure 5.1 – Two main categories of open access (OA) journals, according to Harnad et al. (2004).



[Source: Author’s own animation created using PowToon. NB: References are cited below in the description.]

An opportunity?

Perhaps the chief advantage of open access for an academic is the free sharing of knowledge. Barriers, namely journal access fees (Cox and Cox, 2003), which typically interfere with an individual’s ability to access and exchange information are eliminated. As a result, Lawrence (2001, p.522) claims that published articles receive approximately x3.4 greater views. Open access also reduces the likelihood of unintentional duplication of work. Once the aforementioned barriers are removed, all existing work can be viewed, built upon and improved (Hylén, 2006), which would afford the content producer greater satisfaction.

Standing on the shoulders of giants.
Figure 5.2 – Standing on the shoulders of giants.

A hindrance?

On the other side, Hylén (2006) cites uncertainty amongst content producers: some academics lack confidence in transitioning to open access due to a lack of copyright awareness, and fears over intellectual property rights. Accompanying this is the investment of time required to gain adequate awareness of the issue of rights (Hylén, 2006). Loss of ownership appears to be a widespread concern, given that 55% of academics have reported a desire to limit the use of their work to solely educational purposes (Gadd, 2003, p.21). This links in turn to the issue of quality assurance, and raises questions over whose responsibility it is. For instance, is it the responsibility of institutions, journals, or readers? However various strategies, centralised and decentralised, have been proposed (Hylén, 2006).

Considering the disadvantages of open access appear to have most relevance in the short-term, this implies that overall, the opportunities far outweigh the hindrances. While awareness grows, and 90% of journals have taken steps toward open access, merely 5% meet the criteria for full open access (Harnad et al., 2004, p.313). Evidently, a great deal more can be done to ensure the ‘science gap’ (TEDx, 2012) is closed and knowledge is accessible to all.


Word count: 391


Cox, J. and Cox, L. (2003) Scholarly publishing practice: the ALPSP report on academic journal publishers’ policies and practices in online publishing. Available from: [Accessed on 04 May 2017].

Gadd, E., Oppenheim, C. and Probets, S. (2003) RoMEO studies 2: how academics want to protect their open-access research papers. Journal of Information Science, 29 (5), 333-356.

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallières, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y., Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H. and Hilf, E. (2004) The access/impact problem and the green and gold roads to open access. Serials Review, 30 (4), 310-314.

Hylén, J. (2006) Open educational resources: opportunities and challenges. Available from: [Accessed on 04 May 2017].

Lawrence, S. (2001) Online or invisible? Nature, 411 (6837), 521-523.

Piled Higher and Deeper [PHD] (2012) Open access explained!. Available from: [Accessed on 03 May 2017].

TEDx (2012) The Science Gap: Jorge Cham and TEDxUCLA. Available from: [Accessed on 04 May 2017].

Supplementary bibliography:

Beall, J. (2012) Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature, 489 (7415), 179.

Downes, S. (2007) Models for sustainable open educational resources. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 1-16.

Dunn, D. (2013) Education finally ripe for radical innovation by social entrepreneurs. Available from: [Accessed on 03 May 2017].

Kurtz, M., Eichhorn, G. Accomazzi, A., Grant, C., Demleitner, M., Murray, S., Martimbeau, N. and Elwell, B. (2005) The bibliometric properties of article readership information. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 56 (2), 111-128.

Lepitak, S. (2013) 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Available from: [Accessed on 03 May 2017].! (2017) Open access and copyright. Available from: [Accessed on 04 May 2017].

Wiley, D., Cable, G. and Soares, L. (2012) Dramatically bringing down the cost of education with OER: how open education resources unlock the door to free learning. Center for American Progress, 1-5.


4 thoughts on “Topic 5: Open Access for the Average Academic

  1. Hi Brad,

    I found this post engaging and full of useful insights. Starting with a video clip really helps to get the reader into the complex topic quickly. You have also done well to keep a tight focus on how open access effects academics in particular; I noticed that several student posts tended to stray into more general advantages and disadvantages.

    In relation to your conclusion that more can be done to make knowledge accessible to all, do you think it is purely the job of publishers to remove their pay walls in order for this goal to be achieved? Or, do you agree with Cham who implies that the whole concept of journals and publication seems old-fashioned and unproductive and that the future is about creating new ways of communicating and sharing knowledge, such as MOOCs and animated films?

    Let me know your thoughts.
    Many thanks.




  2. Hi Catherine, thank you for your positive feedback! The point you raise about the redundancy of journals is pretty intriguing. Ever since the latter stage of my dissertation, I have been wondering how different my project may have been if I could’ve gained access to certain journals. And because of this, I am actually inclined to agree with Cham; I think the entire process needs to be rejuvenated. Based on my discussions with others, I get the impression that the majority of us believe that journals serve merely to hinder the rewards of open access. Interactive, free and accessible content (such as MOOCs) are definitely the most effective and efficient way forward; and shorter, more readable publications (such as policy briefs in the science realms) should be pursued, given this aforementioned ‘science gap’ (TEDx, 2012).

    Do you think you could forward me the reference for Cham, please? I’d love to take a look!


    Liked by 1 person

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