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