Imagine if this blog cost you £10 to read

A key theme that I’ve discussed throughout my blog posts has been the ease of accessibility and communication that the internet provides. The reality of the open access of material published online, however, does come with many pros and cons and undeniably causes a stir of debate. As a student, I rely heavily on accessing reliable papers online for my own work, and nothing is more frustrating than to discover that the one journal I desperately need to read is completely inaccessible due to its hefty price tag. This situation is made even more discouraging upon learning that, in 2013, a market survey predicted that 90% of all online content would be retained behind paywalls by 2016 (Lepitak, 2013). Tick tock…

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(Source)

Bjork (2004) explains how unrestricted access to academic journals allows the reader to freely view a respectable publication, of which may be an invaluable tool in understanding and developing any findings. Realistically, ground-breaking scientific knowledge can only be deemed significant if it is freely accessible. I believe that once it becomes a commodity, the knowledge becomes downgraded – the findings are no longer universal. To put this notion into a hypothetical context, would it be ethical if the researcher who cracks the cure for cancer were to put a price on these tremendously valuable discoveries? Click HERE to answer!

The points that I have bought to light so far are all from the perspective of the ‘viewer’. As an academic content producer, these are some advantages and disadvantages that arise from publishing material freely:

Advantages

  • Discoveries can be able to be viewed by everyone. Including people that are from developing countries and thus may not have an easy route into joining the academic community.
  • An increased audience. In turn, this will increase the number of citations that you will receive, which is essential in standing out amongst the vast quantity of papers being published every month.
  • Technology is used more meaningfully – the internet does not revolve around Facebook! (Storer, 2015)

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(Source – Australian Open Access Support Group)

Disadvantages

  • Sustainability on a global level. Research funding can either come from government-funded entities or the taxpayer, depending on the host country.
  • There is always the risk of work being misconstrued or plagiarised completely.

Perhaps I have listed more advantages because I’m slightly biased and think that academia should be free for all. Retrospectively, however, we need a happy medium: open access, profiting the viewer yet still finding a way to reward the author/researcher.

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Bjork, B. C., 2004. Open access to scientific publications – an analysis of the barriers to change? Information Research. Volume. 9. No.2. Finland [online] Available at: <https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10227/647/bjork.pdf?sequence=1&gt; [Accessed 1st May 2015]

Leptikah, S. (2012) 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests [online] Available at: <http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests&gt; [Accessed: 1st May 2015]

Storer, R., 2015. Advantages and disadvantages of open access in libraries. SirsiDynix.com [blog] 1st April. Available at: http://www.sirsidynix.com/news/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-open-access-in-libraries [Accessed 1st May 2015]

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13 thoughts on “Imagine if this blog cost you £10 to read

  1. Very interesting post! I wasn’t aware that a market survey predicted that 90% of all online content would be retained behind paywalls by 2016. That’s a pretty high number! For us, as university students, our university pays for access to academic journals. If this prediction pays out to be true, would you agree that this will affect those countries with lower development (I.e. LEDCs) relying on completely open access material?

    Referring to your answer on finding a cure for cancer, ethically it would be amazing for this information to be open access, meaning healthcare institutions globally would benefit from this, making society happy and healthier. I would therefore hope to believe that such information would not be downgraded, but more valued and respected universally. For that reason (hypothetically speaking) the researcher who finds the cure for cancer certainly shouldn’t profit from their findings in such a restrictive, closed-access way. I’m 100% sure his/her reward will come in many other forms.

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  2. Hi Irinie,

    I’m glad you found this post of interest 🙂

    To answer your question, I whole-heartedly believe that LEDCs would suffer terribly if all academic material were to be trapped behind a paywall. It would be totally counter-intuitive of us as global citizens, as it goes against the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of working towards equality in education. Moreover, it would not be financially feasible to fund the entire student population of, say, rural China, into the UK. So overall, a shift to closed access would be moving towards an unequal world…

    I’m also glad you agree with me on the hypothetical ‘cancer cure’ scenario, as I too think that researchers will be rewarded in other forms, be that monetary amongst much more.

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  3. Hi Tat!

    Really enjoyed reading your blog post this week. I can definitely empathise with you on the frustrations of paywalls and restricted access to journal articles!

    I particularly liked your argument, and tweet, about science denying science – it really got me thinking.

    One point I wanted to raise, however, was that paywalls might not be the inevitable future for 2016. In a Guardian article it was mentioned that the ‘Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) announced that all UK research post-April 2016 must be open access in order to qualify for funding assessments’. [1] I wondered what your thoughts on this might be?

    [1] http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/oct/27/-sp-whats-the-biggest-challenge-facing-open-access

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for you’re comment. I find it so frustrating that science is an unbelievably innovative discipline, yet the professionals within it are holding it back!

      In regards to the Guardian article, I think that it’s incredibly important that the policy comes to light. This way, fields of research will no longer be shielded from the public eye, and perhaps a third party can see a specific gap in the study, and go on to fill it themselves. Thus keeping education and research at the forefront of the countries priorities. Besides, I’m sure tax paying UK citizens would be interested in seeing where their money is going!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tatiana, your title for this week’s topic really did caught my eyes! And this got me thinking about the conflicts between the pros of using the Internet (i.e. its accessibility and to share ideas with others freely) and the cost for people to share them.
    As you have mentioned, 90% of all online content would be retained behind paywalls by 2016, and if this comes true, Internet would be a totally different world! I cannot imagine having to pay for most of the things that I used to be able to access freely. Having to possibly pay to view or use materials online might put a lot of people off from using those materials. This could then have a negative effect on content producers as less people are using or viewing the materials that have taken them a lot of time and efforts to create. Therefore, I think content user should make their materials freely available online as this would also benefits themselves. At the end of the day, they just want to share their hard works with other people.

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    1. Hi Cherrie,

      Thank you for your feedback. I used the title to draw the reader in because I wanted to give a kind of ‘shock factor’. It would be awful if we had to pay each and every time we wanted to access an academic document, a blog or any other webpage that displays important content. I thought £10 would be a bit pricey to read a blog, but there’s nothing wrong with a little exaggeration to stress a point!

      I’m glad you agree that content should be freely available. Knowledge should not be so monetised and inaccessible. As Tamara mentioned on her blog, I’m sure content producers will receive payback and rewards in a multitude of different ways.

      Like

  5. Great post again, Tatiana.

    Your initial question and survey by Lepitak instantly made me consider the thought of a paid internet, and how possible it could be. As time moves onward we are seeing more and more aspects of the internet, especially those that are provided freely, finding ways to generate revenue. Youtube is a great example of this, as they have recently released a paid subscription fee for android devices called a ‘Music Key’ allowing you to listen to music from a video in the background. Whilst the lack of this functionality always seemed backwards, the fact that youtube have now addressed this by creating a paid service for it can be seen as both shrewd and opportunistic. Besides this, platforms such as Patreon allow users to generate additional revenue by creating extra content that can only be accessed when paid for.
    Tying this into research, do you think papers that have already been funded by third party sources be open access by default? As these papers have most likely benefited the creator by giving them an excellent job opportunity with the party who has funded them, is extra value being squeezed out of these papers ethical?

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    1. Hi,

      To answer your question, yes I do believe that funded papers should be open access by default. If creators are received monetary rewards to produce this knowledge, then it should be open access to all – it opens up the reader population, thus probably increasing citations, and promotes the third party funding team on the side. This side promotion is then likely to increase the number of researchers applying for funding, and consequently will lead to the production of more academic knowledge. In this sense, the the extra value is totally ethical if it encourages more research to be conducted.

      Like

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