Open Access to Online Content

There are two properties of online content in the digital web, Paid Access and Open Access. Like their names, Paid Access represents online content that are only available for users who have paid for it and Open Access represents online content that are able to be viewed for free to all users (Editage, 2015). This post is focused on Open Access’ pros and cons.

Video taken Open Access Explained! from via Youtube

Open Access has been a hot debate in this era of digital web (theguardian.com, 2012). Especially, a lot of end-users have been demanding academic journals to be available for free to anyone, like in the video above. However, the problem doesn’t revolve only around end-users, there are many factors in this case, such as, publishers and authors.

The benefits of Open Access to end-users are prominent; things being free will always be a good profit for users. Open Access allows researchers to share their findings online and improve each other (sparcopen.org). Most of researchers’ complaints of Paid Access have been about how the paid content was not the one they were searching and could not get a refund. With Open Access, researches do not need to pay for works until they find the one that they need.

For publishers and authors, however, Open Access possesses more disadvantages than benefits. 12% of authors have to pay out of their own pockets for their articles to be published, others have to find funders (theguardian.com, 2013). Publishers have to pay to publish those articles for users to see. Of course publishers and authors do get benefits, for example, getting more recognition and citations for their works, but the costs of getting their works online may outweigh those benefits (edanzediting.com, 2013).

new-piktochart_842_405604c5dac81f054ecf000d5569e3359793591a.jpegInfographic created by Maureen Harend, by piktochart, references from edanzediting.com and earlham.edu

A good way of solving this problem is to make some content free to access, while others still need to be paid first. An example is Directory of Open Access Journal (DOAJ). The site, as of now, has two-third of its content free to access. Unfortunately, this solution is also difficult to implement. As evident in the linked journal, there is barely any parameters to determine which articles should be released for free and which should not.

[words: 347, excluding in-text citations and references]

References:

Anyangwe, E., Freedman, E., 2012. Open access in research: catch up on the debate. theguardian.com

Directory of Open Access Journal, 2016. doaj.org

Edanzediting, 2013. Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access. edanzediting.com

Editage Insights, 2015. What are the differences between open access and standard subscription-based publication? editage.com

Piled Higher and Deeper, 2012. Open Access Explained! Youtube, PHD Comics

Sparcopen, 2016. sparcopen.org

Suber, P., 2013. Open access: six myths to put to rest. theguardian.com

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Open Access to Online Content

  1. Hi Maureen,

    Thanks for the interesting read!
    I have learned from your post that ‘Open Access’ are frequently used among researchers for academic journals.
    It is commendable that you have included the solution of making the content partially free, and remaining to be paid.
    However, in Today’s technology, information is widely available, be it paid or not, students or adults are actually using Torrent to download thesis, movies and other online content (https://www.maketecheasier.com/is-downloading-torrent-legal-or-illegal/).
    With Torrent, users can easily retrieve articles to read for free, and with proper citations, they are not inflicting any piracy cause.
    Hence, even without Open Access, that aims at helping researchers to increase recognition, end-users can also get their hands on materials for free.
    In this case, do you think it is better for researchers to blog about their thoughts and articles through the help of various social media (https://www.wired.com/category/science/science-blogs/)?
    Through blogs, researchers can also gain fame and recognition for their work and at $0 publishing fees! Moreover, end-users can easily access to it just by the search engine of Google, or so.

    Hope we can discuss this further!!

    Cheers, Xin Hui

    Like

    1. Hello Xin Hui, thank you for reading and commenting my post!

      The problem with torrent is, not all downloads are deemed legal, just like your source has written. Copyrighted works also should be asked for permission from the authors first before use.

      Blogs and published academic journals are different. Prior to being published, academic journals have to be reviewed by several experts. This is done to ensure its content is authentic and authors can be hold accountable for any information the journals are relaying.

      On the other hand, posting on blogs can be done by anyone, anytime. There is no organisation that reviews it, no requirements for authors to publish their full contact details, you don’t even necessarily have to cite any of your sources. Therefore the reliability of the post significantly drops. This is a very important issue especially among academic researchers as what is being at stake here is knowledge.

      While blogs may definitely work for researchers to share their ‘thoughts’, ‘work’ and ‘academic journals’ should be treated differently as these are not just things that suddenly pop up in our minds. These require literature reviews, experiments, evidence and a great deal of time and effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Maureen,
        Thanks for taking the time out to reply to my comment! 🙂
        Also, the clarification that you have made has allowed me to have a clearer picture of the differences between published thesis and social media’s online content. I can now see why Open Access is important for researchers as opposed to the use of blogs!
        Thank you ^^

        Like

  2. Hi Maureen!

    Nice work on Topic 5 for open access. (:

    In your last paragraph, you mentioned that a good way of solving the issue of open access is to make some content free to access, which others still need to be paid first. Your suggestion allowed me to consider some of the possible actions for a music producer, e.g. having 1-2 songs free but paying for an entire album if you’ll like to listen more. Do you think this is a possible solution?

    However, I went ahead and researched more into the subject before discovering that although this seems like a win-win solution for both users and content producers, a percentage of the latter seems to be unhappy about having ‘freemium” features. An example is Taylor Swift where she pulled out all of her songs from Spotify, stating that music is valuable and rare, thus, should not be free. (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/04/taylor-swift-spotify-streaming-album-sales-snub)

    What do you think?

    Dawn
    (155 words)

    Like

    1. Hellooooo Dawn! Thank you for reading and commenting my post!^^

      That is a possible solution, indeed. It is similar to how some softwares are giving free trial for a period of time. Users are only required to pay if they want to continue using the content after the trial.

      I’ve noticed that the problem also lies in some producers who want to get profit from their works, not just sharing the works to others. I totally understand that mindset, we do need money to live after all. However, there are other producers who think otherwise. For example, Panic at the Disco!’s Brendon Urie told his fans to rip his songs off from Youtube, if they don’t have enough money to buy his songs. Thus, I would say that it depends on the producer sharing their content.

      Like

  3. Hi Maureen, I liked that your post includes both the benefits of open access to online materials for users and for content producers. This gave me a clear idea on how open access to online materials can be of beneficial to the society in general. Also, when you mentioned that publishers have to pay in order to showcase their work for free to public, what about the revenue they gained per number of reads for an article? Does the revenue outweighs the cost? Here is a website that might trigger your thinking for the cost of publishing: http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676
    Also, it was a good point mentioned by you that content producers can make certain content free to access, while some needs to be paid for. However, what are your views on restricting content to users where they have to pay a subscription fee to access? How does that benefit or cause a disadvantage like losing readers/users to the content creator himself?

    Like

    1. Hello, Joey. Thank you for reading, liking and commenting my post! 🙂 Glad that my post can give you a clear idea on the topic.

      I’ve skimmed through the link that you’ve given to me. Let’s see, hypothetically, all academic journals were free to access now. There should be some articles which are more cited by others, and other articles which are buried by better articles. Those authors who have their articles buried wouldn’t get enough revenue, would they?

      In my opinion, those who are in need of or do not have funds, have no option in this case. How else will they publish their works if there is no one to pay for the production but subscribers? Those producers have to take the risks of losing exposure in exchange to get their content produced at all.

      Good news, there are many foundations who are able to fund researchers, like DOAJ, Creative Commons, and more. They are still limited and have flaws to their procedures, but nevertheless, a step forward to Open Access.

      Like

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