Open Access – An issue for the 21st century

For an introduction to open access, check out this video:

In a world with complete open access, anyone in the world would be able to access and build upon research literature in order to increase the value of the research literature. However, in the real world we currently suffer from the research access/impact problem which arises because journal articles are not accessible to all of their would-be users and are therefore losing potential research impact. The solution is to make all articles Open Access – accessible online, for free, immediately, by all (Harnad et al, 2004).

The legal basis of Open Access is the consent of the copyright holder (for newer literature) or the expiration of copyright (for older literature). One easy, effective, and increasingly common way for copyright holders to manifest their consent to open access is to use one of the Creative Commons licenses (Suber, 2015).

It is also important to remember that the campaign for the open access focuses on literature that authors give to the world without expectation of payment. First, it reduces costs for the provider or publisher. Second, it enables the author to consent to open access without losing revenue (Willmers, 2016). Whilst royalty free literature is the low hanging fruit for open access, royalty producing content such as textbooks is also a near possibility for open access, given the author’s permission.

However, not all scientists are comfortable sharing dat. Some point out there is an obvious competitive disadvantage to sharing data before publication. In an academic culture that rewards the first to report a finding and for which publication is critical for promotion, sharing might seem unfair to early career scientists and unacceptable to more established investigators (Ketsdever, 2015).

Types of Open Access

The gold road: Researchers publish their article in specific open access journals.

The green road: Researchers publish their articles in non-Open Access journals but also self-archive it in an open access archive.



Peter Suber, Open Access Overview,

Steven Harnad et al, The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access,

Michelle Wilmers, Pros and Cons of Open Data,

6 thoughts on “Open Access – An issue for the 21st century”

  1. Hi Ed
    I really like your post this week. You’ve managed to explain open access movement really clearly.
    You raise some interesting points both for and against open access. I wondered which side of the debate you lean towards or does it very much depend on the individual, as mentioned with your example of scientists reluctant to share work?.

    Given the difference in opinion between many authors, do you feel that complete open access is achievable? Tools such as have recently emerged which scan the web for open access versions of ‘paywalled’ papers. Whilst this tool is incredibly useful when it works, there are a relatively small amount of papers openly accessible. Could the promotion of such tools could change this?


  2. Hi Edward,

    I really enjoyed reading this post! I see you also found the Wiley video rather informative; I really liked how they kept the definitions simple yet maintained a great level of detail and understanding.

    I appreciated that you explored the different types of open access – the format of this was clear and concise which I really liked. I also appreciated your inclusion of various disadvantages for Open Access – being a student it’s rather hard to not disregard these cons, as open access is the key to our success at university. In fact, I was guilty of holding a favourable bias towards the positives, I only very quickly skimmed over the disadvantages (oops!).

    I liked that in your discussion you based your arguments around academic integrity, and I see that you have previously discussed the digital divide, so my question to you is this:

    Is the notion against open access damaging to those who are of a disadvantaged background; creating one dimensional, uneducated thought (Marcuse, 1986) amongst them, and does it further the digital divide amongst not only countries, but also social classes?

    Thank you for this post,


    1. Hi Faazila,

      I do feel that it is possible to suggest that the notion against open access is damaging to those who are of a more disadvantaged background, however it depends on the situation. In the majority of cases, people from any background rarely need to access academic papers unless they are associated with an organisation such as a university. In these cases, the organisation which the person belongs to will usually provide access to the journals necessary.

      In cases where people need access to papers but are unable to, reasons such as extremely expensive paywalls tend to be the limiting factor rather than their background. Whilst those who come from a poorer background will be unable to pay the fee, usually the prices are so high that in fact people from MOST backgrounds are unable to pay the fee. As a result I feel this is less to do with the person’s background and more to do with the business structure of those who control the journals.

      This would however have an impact on social divide on a wider scale, such as country wide, in my opinion.

      Thanks, Ed

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