Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Open Access

A quick introductory video about the concept of open access in universities:

Credit: McGill Library (2010) Open Access via YouTube

What is open access? In simple terms, open access is the practice of making research and other materials freely accessible online, ideally under licenses that permit widespread dissemination of knowledge, culture and ideas (Harmon E., 2015).  Contrary to the concept of open access, a recent study suggested that 90% of online content would probably be held behind paywalls in the future (Lepitak S, 2013). Furthermore, Shockey N. and Eisen J. argued that it’s extremely illogical to pay scientists to do research when all their work is going to be compressed on a paper and not made available to people (“Open Accessed Explained”, PHD Comic, 2012, 2:29).   

Credit: Piled Higher and Deeper,  (PHD Comics) 

Did you know that the average fee of accessing scientific journals is now over $1000, with some subscriptions costing in the range of $40,000 (PHD Comic, “Open Access Explained”, 2012, 1:42)?  As a marketing student, it is undeniably frustrating when I can’t afford to gain full access to online journal articles. It is essentially discriminating that only the wealthy have access to the copiousness of knowledge. Here is an example:

Credit: Peacock J. (2014) 

Steakley L. (2013) presented an article regarding a teen cancer researcher, Jack Andraka who emphasised the importance of open access not only concerning the field of medicine but also towards innovation and universal knowledge. He argued that ideas could only be exchanged more easily and swiftly if the financial barrier to knowledge was eradicated. Here is a video featuring the young prodigy and his speech:

Credit: TEDx Talks (2013) Paywalls vs. open access: 

When I was doing my research, I chanced upon this [article] by Kendzior S. (2012) which proved to be extremely beneficial for my understanding on this specific topic. In 2013, at the age of 26, Aaron Swartz took his life whilst battling a two-year legal nightmare between himself and US prosecutors (Mumby F., 2014). Does it really matter if content such as academic journal articles are available for free online? Ironically, education is so encouraged in today’s society, so why would the US government prosecute Aaron Swartz? Here is a documentary regarding Aaron Swartz:
Credit: The Documentary Network (2014) 

Credit: Kingsley D. & Brown S. (2012) Benefits of Open Access via AOASG
When work is freely available online, it is easily accessible. This heightens the profile of researchers through the exposure of readership, downloads, and citations, which in turn enhances reputation. As a result, an individual’s earning capacity can increase through paid academic talks and project involvement (McVeigh J., 2013).

Credit: Kyle S. (2015) The Advantages & Disadvantages 

Accessing the above, it is vital to consider the numerous advantages of open access, and free online content establishment. This applies not only to the content producer, but also to the public as a whole. After all, education is a matter of sharing (Wiley D., 2012).

[410 Words, excluding citations & references]


Harmon E. (2015) Open Access Week 2015 EFF

Wiley D., Green C., and Soares L. (2012) Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER Center for American Progress

Kingsley D. & Brown S. (2012) Benefits of Open Access AOASG

The Documentary Network (2014) The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (CC available) YouTube Video [Accessed November 11, 2015]

TEDx Talks (2013) Paywalls vs. open access: Jack Andraka at TEDxUNPlaza YouTube Video [Accessed November 11, 2015]

Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics), 2012. Open Access Explained! YouTube Video [Accessed November 11, 2015]

The Documentary Network (2014) The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (CC available) YouTube Video [Accessed November 11, 2015]

McGill Library (2010) Open Access YouTube Video [Accessed November 11, 2015]

Kyle S. (2015) The Advantages & Disadvantages of Open Access via Available at [Accessed November 11, 2015]

Mumby F. (2014) Access to online materials: yay or nay? via Available at [Accessed November 11, 2015]

McVeigh J. (2013) Advantages and Disadvantages to a content producer of making their material feely available online via Available at [Accessed November 11, 2015]

Kendzior S. (2012) Academic paywalls mean publish and perish aljazeera

Peacock J. (2014) Access Denied Jessica and the world wide web [Accessed November 11, 2015]

Geib A. (2013) Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access edanzediting


  1. Hey Ryan,

    Firstly, thank you for such an informative post!

    There is no doubt that with open access, researchers in the developing countries will be able to see our work. However, they faces steeper access barriers due to the financial capability to purchase the journals, preventing them from contributing to the advancement of science and humanities. Maybe you can check out this reading ( on how India is being affected to perform on the scientific system. Therefore, my question to you is, do you think that this unequal access affects the research community in developed countries as well?

    Secondly, I happen to come across this news mentioning that mobile users are more willing to pay for content than people who browse the web. (( I understand that paywalls exist in phone applications as well, for example, paying to download movies, books or music. Hence, my next question to you is, with the rise in mobile computing, do you think that paywalls is a form of publishing strategy?

    Really keen to hear your views about this!

    1. Hi Tian Yi,

      Thanks for the questions. Firstly, I do think that some people in developed countries will be affected by the unequal access because not everyone is wealthy. There are lower, middle and upper income groups of people. Hence, there will definitely be people who couldn't afford the online materials. In my blogpost, I actually presented this: the average fee of accessing scientific journals is now over $1000, with some subscriptions costing in the range of $40,000 (PHD Comic, “Open Access Explained”, 2012, 1:42). Looking at the cost of each journal article, do you agree that even we're living in a developed country like Singapore, most of the students cannot afford the journal articles online?

      Personally, I think the second article was so much more interesting than the first. Maybe that's because we are born in the digital age. That brings me to your next question, yes, I have to agree that paywalls are definitely a form of publishing strategy. Let's look at Spotify as an example, I think Spotify is doing a great job with their Premium paywalls, even I am paying for the monthly member subscription fee just to get the full access! Therefore, I think it's absolutely a form of publishing strategy.

      This article regarding spotify is really interesting:

      Hope you find it useful! :)

  2. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for sharing Aaron Swartz’s story. It’s really inspiring to see all the awesome people behind those incredible inventions of the web. I believe one motivational force that keeps Aaron going is his mentality of making the world a better place by sharing his knowledge and using his ability to create things on the web that can help everyone to make things easier.

    This can be very much apply on what we are talking about in this topic. I believe in the first place why researchers come up with content is because they want to explore new ideas and ways to improve an issue and if they end up using closed access for their articles, in my opinion, it’s actually defeat the purpose of doing the research in the first place.

    However, I just want to ask you if you think all materials should be openly access to everyone because for Aaron Swartz’s case, he actually tried to make closed access information openly and end up getting himself into a lot of trouble.

    1. Hey Andrea,

      Thanks for the comment. In my blogpost, I actually stated that as a university student, it is very frustrating when I can't get full access to online journal articles. Thus, I still think all materials should be openly accessible. As for Aaron Swartz, his actions were absolutely admirable because helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. However, whatever it was, he still broke the law, and we can't do anything to change the fact.

      Did you know that after that incident, the White House has declined to rule on a petition that called for the firing of two Justice Department officials over the handling of Aaron Swartz's controversial case? If you're interested to know more, here's an article,

      In addition, Obama implemented a new executive order on open access,

      Hope you find the articles useful :)


Don't You Think this Awesome Post should be shared ??
| Open Access |