Topic 5: Open Access or Not?

Open access is the ‘free, immediate online availability of research articles with full re-use rights.’ (Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics), 2012) Before the mid-1990s, most scientific research journals were only available on paper, however over the years, many have moved their content online. Yet, in 2013, it was estimated that 90% of online content was expected to be behind a paywall over the ensuing three years. (The Drum, 2013) Does this suggest a want, or need, for open access?

Wiley, YouTube

How can Open Access Help?

In the current day and age, it is easy to find online blogging sites to publish your own work such as Tumblr, WordPress, or even YouTube. By doing so, you are offering maximum availability for others to see and review it. However, this does not only benefit the reader; by publishing such works online the author themselves also benefit by not having to pay journals a publishing fee to feature their work.

In terms of readership, educators and students often need access to research journals and articles for their studies; not everyone has the money to access every journal behind a paywall, however. Even universities themselves will have to divert an average of $150,000 from their library budget to establish institutional repositories. (Martin Frank, 2013)

Self-produced, Piktochart. Data from The New England Journal of Medicine

Downsides of Open Access?

While yes, it could be said to be morally and ethically grounded for open access to be pushed, it must also be viewed from a business perspective. It’s not a simple case of uploading something on the Internet; to make code open access, you must also document how to use it, and how it works.

In order to publish these journals, it has to be paid for. And while a lot of scientific research is paid for by taxpayers, the journals that the research is displayed in are not. Often, a scientist can pay for one of their papers to be open access when they are published in a journal that is not freely available immediately. However, they must then consider the limitations of using grant money on publication fees.



In conclusion, while there are many benefits to push for open access, the costs and methods of it must be considered. Ultimately, however, I do feel that the benefits outweigh the (literal) costs, as others can then access the content and utilise it for research and educational purposes.

Word count: 399



“Benefits of Open Access Journals”, PLOS

Eveleth, Rose, “Free Access to Science Research Doesn’t Benefit Everyone”, (2014), The Atlantic

Frank, Martin, “Open but Not Free – Publishing in the 21st Century”, (2013), The New England Journal of Medicine

Lepitak, Stephen, “90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests”, (2011) The Drum

Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics), “Open Access Explained!”, (2012), YouTube

Wiley, “Understanding Open Access”, (2014), YouTube



8 thoughts on “Topic 5: Open Access or Not?

  1. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for a great blog post! I really like how clearly and well structured you laid out the arguments, it definitely helped me develop a better understanding of the two sides. I was particularly impressed with your self-produced infographic – it looks very professional!

    You mentioned online sites such as Tumblr where produces can publish their own content and this got me thinking about how this would work with academic articles. I had a search around but couldn’t actually find anything about publishing work on blogs instead of journals! Do you believe this is something academic institutions should begin to look into when striving towards open data? Or do you think that the lack of academic approval one would get from publishing work in a journal means that producers are reluctant to take this approach even if it could be the most beneficial?

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for your comment!

      I definitely think that you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Blogging sites generally aren’t considered to be very “academic” in nature; I feel that it’s something that should be considered though! I think it all comes down to what the content producers want to gain out of publishing their work. Do they want to share their knowledge in an accessible format? Or do they want to strive for professionalism and get their name out there in their specific field of research?

      I did a quick search and found this interesting article, which lists a few blogs that are maintained by “researchers, scholars, and academics”:

      Maybe one day, blogs will receive more of an academic approval (depending on content, of course) and will be used on a more day to day basis to spread information and knowledge, rather than the occasional journal article!


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Andy!
        Thanks for getting back to me. Interesting to see your thoughts on the academic blogs, if it comes down to what content producers want do you think they have to compromise between academic integrity and open access? Or is there a gap in the market to create a new area?


  2. Hi Andy, thanks for such a great blog post! I wondered if you would be able to shed a little more light on your opinion of ‘need’ and ‘want’: which do you believe is more applicable for open access in today’s world? The article by Frank (2013) seems to imply that there is a ‘need’ for open access.
    I also really like how you have briefly related open access to contemporary digital social media platforms, as this is a connection I had not previously made. Do you think the pros and cons vary at all with reference to social media open access? Perhaps these are more ‘want’ based, in comparison to the ‘need’ of academic research. Let me know what you think!


  3. Hi Andy,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post this week. It really helped build my understanding of the two sides of the argument and reinforce the conclusion I came to, as we both agree open access has more positives than consequences.
    I really enjoyed your infographics; I found the video from Wiley especially useful. Your self-made infographic is very eye-catching and adds to your post nicely!
    In your consequences section, you mention tax payers money and how they help pay for scientific research and how the researcher may have to pay for certain journals. Have you considered the impact factor of journals that scientists rely on? Do you think Open Access can ever reach that level of impact? Open Access says that it could take a long time for Open Access to achieve that high impact status.
    Look forward to your reply,


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