Open Access: Good or Bad?


Traditional publishing model which is printing as a book is so complex because you have to consider the details, color and figure etc. With our life starts to enter the digital era, printing books are replaced by internet books gradually. For us, it is the better way because it is more convenience that we don’t have to go to the library or buy the book anymore. However, I believe there are many people once found references for report but discovered many academic articles need to be paid. As what Stephen Lepitak mentioned in his article, 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests which means it is possible that we may use any article need to be paid in the future. But actually, open access came up many years ago. And is it good or bad?

From Public Library of Science official site the benefit of opening access are divided by three main parts which are accelerated discovery, public enrichment and improved education. Literally, open access is easy for researchers to read articles without restriction. And public enrichment means much scientific and medical research is paid for with public funds. Open Access allows taxpayers to see the results of their investment.


Here is a example from ‘Open Access Explained!’ video. The man’s wife is in hospital and the man wanted to search on the internet and tried to find out the particular medical treatment but couldn’t get access to the papers. However the doctor neither know the answer of these questions. In this case, how could this man make the treatment decision? And if this man paid the access to the articles but he didn’t know which articles are relevant but there is not return policy. Therefore, probably this man spend a lot of money but don’t find any relevant article. It is unfair to a man who is eager to his wife get better. So I think open access is very important that allows taxpayers to see the results of their investment. From my point of view, the most important advantage is improve education. The lack of access to journals is a commonly cited problem for researchers in low-income countries. People in low-income countries are really struggle to get access, let alone be able to contribute fully or do world-class research. Opening access can provide people in low-income countries with opportunity to participate in the international research community(Adam Geib, 2013). Only in this way the developing countries can develop faster.

However, in open access model, the end users do not need to pay for using which means not only authors have to afford the cost but the large portion of their revenue comes from publication fees also disappear. Authors will lose motivation to research and result in the negative impact on overall quality(Adam Geib, 2013). In my opinion, I think government should afford the cost and contribute the service for people. It is also be responsible with taxpayers.

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Picture References:




Piled Higher and Deeper, 25 October 2012, Open Access Explained!

Stephen Lepitak, 12 April 2013, 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests

Benefits of Open Access Journals

Adam Geib, 25 October 2013, Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access

5 thoughts on “Open Access: Good or Bad?

  1. Hi Xiaulu,

    You made some interesting points about how this research should be subsidised by the taxpayer to maintain an incentive for researchers to publish their work. However, I believe that there is a solution. This example shows how materials can be provided for free and sponsored advertising covers the loss in revenue from providing the research for free.
    You also raised the topic of access to resources in low-income countries. According to the Guardian, only 40% of Vietnamese children use the internet for learning. It is estimated that over 60% of the global population don’t have access to the internet so do you think that this might increase the disparity between education levels between countries?


  2. Hi Xiaolu,
    I thought that your stance on open access was very thought provoking and one that I had not considered when writing my own blog post. As you mention the importance of education, do you not think that some institutions should have some responsibility to provide students with journals that are behind a paywall? The university of southampton pays for access for certain websites that would otherwise be non-accessible to us, in order to support our studies. Whilst we are paying higher tuition fees, I do think that in a way this is the organisations responsibility, as we are here after all to study and research.
    I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
    Hannah Buckfield


  3. Hi Xiaolu,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and thought it was really informative.
    A thing I have to question is that some journals’ subscriptions are incredibly expensive for just one year. With averages prices from: Chemistry journals costing up to $4227, Physics is $3649 and even some like Agriculture costing up to $1317. This is because the price increase has risen to 250% more than inflation.
    So do you not think it would be hard for the Government to pay for all of the open access? If the Government were to pay for this through taxpayers’ money then tax would have to increase enormously to be able to balance the amount that needs to be paid for. However, I do agree that perhaps the Governement could contribute at least a small about towards paying for open access journals to allow the social, education, scientific sectors can benefit.

    Overall, great post!



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