Category Archives: Learn

Major Breakthrough: How Open Access Paved the way for a Cancer Diagnostic to be created

After reading through all the background information on how Open Access will benefit all groups of people,  YOU should now be more convinced that YOU can play a part in creating greater awareness to the general public. This will be a first step in convincing the Singapore government to make all research materials by the local universities be made available through Open Access and also join the masses of organisations around the world that is pushing for Open Access worldwide.

Watch this video on how Open Access allowed a 16 year old boy to make a major breakthrough in creating a Cancer Diagnostic. Truly, this is one of the many stories that can be attributed to Open Access.

 

After watching this video, click on the heading ‘TAKE ACTION’ to find out what you have to do in support of Open Access.

 

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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.

 

The Solution

solution

To overcome the problem of restricted access to journals, it is time to for a new model- it’s time for OPEN ACCESS. Here, instead of locking information behind price barriers, research can be made accessible to anyone who needs it, regardless of university affiliation, geographic location, or ability to pay.

This will ensure that the results of scholarly research are made available online immediately upon publication freely and removing barriers to scholarly and educational re-use. It recognises that while there are legitimate costs associated with formal publication, these can be effectively covered in ways that do not require toll barriers for users to access an article.

Open Access is made possible in a number of ways, including:

  • Open-access journals that make their articles freely available at the time of publication
  • Open digital repositories, where articles are deposited and can be indexed and accessed by anyone with an Internet connection
  • Effectively managed copyright – authors are retaining the rights they need to ensure their articles can be accessed and used by the widest possible audience, and be published in the most prestigious venue
  • Local, national and international policies that support Open Access to scholarly research results

To date, millions of articles are currently being made available via open-access repositories; and dozens of proposed and established policies from universities (the most recent University of California) and research funders are in play in support of Open Access. Notably, much more can still be done.

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References:

[1] The Directory of Open Access Journals

[2] “Dramatic Growth of Open Access,” Heather Morrison, 06/30/10

[3] Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies (ROARMAP),

The Problem

 

problem

As a student, it’s no secret that academic journals are crucial to your research, and understanding of both fine details and the larger, overall picture of what you are studying. Yet, students often run into access barriers while trying to do research, forcing them to settle on what they can get access to, rather than what they need most. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the way academic research is currently shared is that, even though you — through your taxes and tuition — underwrite a vast portion of research, you’re denied access to the results unless you also pay often very expensive subscription fees.

Even beyond the classroom context, limited access to research has a tremendous impact on people’s lives. When doctors are denied access to medical research, patient outcomes suffer- especially in developing countries where there are fewer resources for medical professionals to commit to research access.

In the business field, small companies will lose opportunities to innovate when they do not have access to the most up-to-date research upon which to build.

So, why is Access limited? 

The price of academic journals’ subscriptions has increased tremendously in the in the last two decades. Even the most well-funded institutions libraries are affected by the cost and cannot afford to have access to them all. In 2010 alone, the University of Georgia cancelled subscriptions to nearly 600 journals. Unfortunately, this seems to be the ongoing trend among colleges and universities rather than an exception.

In developing countries where institution can only afford a small fraction of the access they need, the problem has severely caused much limitation to both the students and the researchers. For example, a prominent researcher in India has said:

“Given such unequal access, Indian scientists inevitably struggle to perform world class science.  The fact is that equitable access to current scientific information is essential if India is to take its rightful place in the world.”

Commercial Publishers and High Cost of Access

As students struggle to afford access to essential journals, the largest publishers continue to make profit margins at and in excess of 30%. How do they make such high profit margins? Well, the market for academic journals is unlike any other. The product, journal articles, is produced by researchers and then given to publishers for free in exchange for being published. After going through the peer review process etc, the publisher then charge campus libraries exorbitant fees for access although universities do contribute significantly to the creation of articles. The irony.

Journals published for by for-profit companies  are many times more expensive than those published by  their non-profit counterparts. This result is surprising: whereas non-profit publishers are usually scholarly societies whose mission is to disseminate knowledge as widely as possible, for-profit publishers’ interest is in maximizing profit.

It is  important to note that nearly all journals used to be published by scholarly societies, but as commercial publishers have taken over and charged higher prices, as shown in the graph, access to this crucial information has gotten more and more expensive.

The Cost 

For as long as access to research is locked away behind price barriers, the public will miss out on opportunities that are possible as compared to when research is openly accessible and searchable. Today, millions of articles are published every year- so many that a researcher could only hope to read a small subset of all articles in a given field, and never hope to be on top of all the latest developments. If the material was given free access to all, we could easily search digitally across all journals at once, allowing us to have an over-arching view of a particular field and uncovering trends that no human researcher could discern. This is certainly possible if there is no barriers in place.

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References

[1] “Expensive Journals List: Current MIT subscriptions costing more than $5,000/year,” MIT Libraries, 07/16/09

[2] “We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/13/10

[3] UGA Libraries, “Final List of Journal Cancellations,” 07/28/10

[4] UCLA Library, “Comparable University Libraries,” 01/28/10

[5] “Why India Needs Open Acces,” Open and Shut?, 05/05/06 )

[6] “Elsevier 2009 $2 billion profits could fund worldwide OA at $1,383 per article,” Heather Morrison, 04/27/10

[7] “Wiley STM: 3rd quarter profits up 18%,” Heather Morrison, 04/26/10