Open Access – An Overview

By: Jessica Coates, doctoral candidate for Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Could you imagine spending five plus years working on a project to no longer being able to access or see your published work? Unfortunately, this was a reality for several of the Open Con 2017 attendees as we shared what brought us to Berlin last November. Despite spending tireless hours dedicated to their respective fields and research, once their data was published, many attendees could no longer access their publications because of financial barriers. Barriers in access don’t just impact researchers but society as a whole, from medical doctors and patients being unable to access research on relevant diseases, to developing countries being unable to access knowledge necessary to thrive. However, through open access initiatives, these types of barriers could be a thing of the past.

What is open access? Open access is a system where research articles can be made readily available online for free to any interested parties, oftentimes free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

Why is open access important?

  1. It enables access to research for people who can’t afford to pay. Thankfully, we attend a university where agreements have already been made with many publishers? to allow us to access research articles as a part of our student fees. However, for many students, researchers, and practitioners this is not their experience. Despite being taxpayers, they are unable to access publicly-funded research because of paywalls established by publishing companies. With open access publishing, articles are available free of cost to everyone.
  2. It increases research outputs and discoverability that can accelerate the advancement of innovation. With technological advancement comes the opportunity to collaborate among different fields and places. However, articles only available behind financial barriers limits the number of people who can find out more about your research and ultimately collaborate.
  3. The public benefits from and can support increased funding. Most research is funded through taxpayers whose interests influence government regulation and further funding. Without access to research, the public cannot advocate for further funding from their local government.

How can I participate in open access initiatives?

  1. Become an active learner! Visit Emory’s Scholarly Communications Office’s website to learn more about open access and your scholarship and teaching. On the website you can find out more about what “open” is and isn’t, how to find open access content, how to publish in open access journals, sharing your research, and how to evaluate the quality of open access journals.
  2. Participate in Open Access Week! Taking place October 22-28, 2018, this year’s theme is “Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge.” Be sure to use the hashtag #OAWeek2018 on Twitter.
  3. Watch a movie. Paywall: The Business of Scholarship is a documentary on the need for open access to research and science. This documentary takes on the multi-billion-dollar profit generated yearly by academic publishers and asks some tough questions.

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