Open Access:Who benefits?

The main purpose of Open Access is to spread knowledge and allow that knowledge to be built upon. Price barriers should not prevent students (or anyone) from getting access to research they need. There is a number of groups that will benefit from the open availability and searchability of scholarly materials;  students, researchers, doctors, patients, developing countries, entrepreneurs, the public and publishers.

Therefore, the government of every country should advocate for a free access to all information as the advantages truly outweigh the disadvantages.

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Let’s take a look at three main groups that will benefit from the open access policy; students, researchers and the public.

1) Students  students

As students, you have a large stake in the debate about access to research and you will reap the most benefits in your education years.

  • A complete education: Irregardless of discipline, all students will need access to the latest research to complete education in their field of study. Having limited access to research makes students settle for information that is available rather than what is relevant. By having Open Access, students can be ensure to get the best possible education by not being deprived of the selection of scholarly journals that the universities are able to provide.
  • If your professors can’t read it, they can’t teach it: Your professors too need to embrace the most recent research in order to deliver to you the content in the classroom. With the advancement in science, it is crucial that the teaching academia are keeping up with the latest research so that the content delivered are not outdated. This problem was recently highlighted by Dr. Gary Ward in a press conference for the Federal Research Public Access Act:

In my role as educator, I often find myself teaching my graduate and medical students what I have access to rather than what they most need to know. Just as one example, in a recent lecture I was preparing for our medical students… I was only able to access about two thirds of the articles that I needed in order to make sure that I was providing these budding young doctors with everything they needed to know about the subject. I can tell you that’s extremely frustrating to me as an educator and it’s clearly not in the best interests of my students. This problem isn’t unique to the University of Vermont. Every academic institution faces this problem – from the best-funded private institutions down to the small liberal arts colleges and community colleges. It’s just a question of degree.

– Dr. Gary Ward, Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, and Co-Director, Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, University of Vermont1

  • Research for papers: Many students can relate to this story; in writing a paper for assignment, one often needs to cite articles from peer-reviewed journals. Google scholar is a platform where most students make their first stop and when one find an abstract of an article that looks good-you continue to search for the full text. Why? Because there is a need to pay for the paper and your library’s Web site does not have a subscription. That article could have made a major contribution in your writing but you did not have access to it. Open Access changes that as one need not worry whether you are in campus or if your library has a subscription. Online accessibility is at your fingertips!
  • The current system puts students from smaller schools at a disadvantage: Smaller or less well-funded colleges and universities may not have full access to the wide journal repositories due to their inability to afford the staggering price of subscriptions. Therefore, students in these institutions will be at a disadvantage in accessing knowledge.
  • Researching beyond the degree: You might have access while being in an institution now but your access to journals expires upon your graduation. Hence, if your job requires you to research at a higher level, you will no longer have the library to provide you any access to journals.

2) Researchers researchers

  • Avoiding duplication: For researchers, it is important for them to know what type of researches have been done by their counterparts from around the world to avoid wasting time, money and effort in conducting the study. Hence, making results known in the field and beyond is highly important and only possible through Open Access as a mode of communication.
  • Research is useless if it’s not shared: The main purpose for researchers to conduct the research is to share their findings with the community and beyond. If their articles are being kept by publishers through subscription mode, science cannot achieve its full potential in reaching out to the masses.
  • Text mining: As millions of articles are published every year, there is only so much that one can read through. Hence, it is important for a researcher to be able to narrow down as many important articles for references and making connections through text mining. However, when articles are made inaccessible due to subscription barriers or policies, these tools cannot reach their true potential.

3) The Public the public

  • Return on our investment: Research results that have made major breakthroughs should be made publicly available so that other researchers can build upon the ideas and improvise on it for the benefit of the community at large.
  • Exercising our right to research: Most researches are publicly funded through taxpayers’ contributions. Hence, the public has a collective right to access the information resulting from their investment.

 

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