Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Then why don’t we free up the access to the existing knowledge to everybody? The existing digital technology can enable this, but it is limited by a disturbingly limiting model…
This video provides a quality explanation of the existing model which is limiting the expansion of research output’s open access. Researchers got themselves stuck in a scientific publishing model, where they go to the most distinguished journals to get their work published. This way the publications end up having the highest quality research, for which they charge sometimes excessive amounts of money. This has clear disadvantages for readers:
4 years ago, Lepitak (2013) was anticipating that 90% of the online content will be held behind paywalls. It is difficult to test if his prediction was reached, but nowadays a lot of publications charge subscriptions for full access to their content. For instance, Financial Times. As Billige was anticipating (Lepitak, 2013), papers found the balance between pricing and customers’ value perception, giving another blow to the open access.
Open access was facilitated by the affordability and flexibility of the digital world. However, proving that public investments in scientific research must be open licensed so the public gets full ROI (Wiley et al., 2012) was the litmus test. Has it been passed? Probably not, but we’ve seen different people and organizations trying to prove it. And it was labelled in a more academic way by some practitioners as ‘Knowledge Economy’, as shown here and here.
On a large scale, the impact of a Knowledge Economy on several countries can be seen in the following infographic (ISET, 2014).
Dunn’s article (2013) emphasizes the real benefits of a knowledge economy on education, including MOOCs. Users can learn almost anything free of charge and purchase completion certificates if wanted. Some intriguing facts about these are listed in the video below:
Art sector is another area where the introduction of open access was highly debated. The arguments, both for and against are similar to the ones in scientific research. The presentation below illustrates some examples of the use of Open Access in arts.
My conclusion is that there are both pros and cons for the adoption of open access. On one hand, content producers need to identify the balance between open access and excess in publishing. On the other hand, we live in a society where the access to information is already denied for some cultures, just as in this case. Do we want to deny it even more by using paywalls for everything?
Barone, J. (2017) Nytimes.com: Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/arts/design/met-museum-makes-375000-images-available-for-free.html?smid=tw-share [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Dunn, D. (2013) Forbes.com: Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/education-finally-ripe-for-radical-innovation-by-social-entrepreneurs/#65ff5d85081e [Accessed 6 May 2017].
FORA.tv (2014) YouTube: Mark Zuckerberg: ‘I’m Pro-Knowledge Economy’. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUWmyGBEfVc&t=1s [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Gumrukcu, T. (2017) Reuters: Turkish court rejects Wikipedia’s appeal over website’s blocking: Anadolu. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-internet-wikipedia-idUSKBN18117M [Accessed 7 May 2017].
HEFCE (2017) Hefce.ac.uk: What is open access? – Higher Education Funding Council for England. Available from: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/rsrch/oa/whatis/ [Accessed 6 May 2017].
HooverInstitution (2013) YouTube: Clip: Gilder on knowledge economy. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FJaMKu7t1s [Accessed 7 May 2017].
ISET (2014) YouTube: Knowledge Economy Visualized. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBC7bA-PeSI [Accessed 6 May 2017].
Jobson, C. (2017) Colossal: The Guggenheim Museum Shares Over 200 Free Art Books Through the Internet Archive. Available from: https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/05/free-modern-art-books-guggenheim/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Lepitak, S. (2013) The Drum: 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Available from: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests [Accessed 6 May 2017].
McIntyre, C. (2015) LinkedIn: Is getting a verified certificate on Coursera worth it?. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/getting-verified-certificate-coursera-worth-carolyn-mcintyre [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics) (2012) YouTube: Open Access Explained!. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=L5rVH1KGBCY [Accessed 6 May 2017].
Scott, K. (2017) WIRED UK: What does Creative Commons mean for photography?. Available from: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-does-creative-commons-mean-for-photography [Accessed 7 May 2017].
Wiley, D., Green, C. and Soares, L. (2012) Eric.ed.gov: Dramatically Bringing down the Cost of Education with OER: How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning.. Available from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED535639 [Accessed 6 May 2017].
20 thoughts on “Open Access or Open Excess?”
Thank you for another great post this week! Your use of subheadings and visuals make your posts really engaging and easy-to-read.
Your PowToon on MOOCs provided some interesting points of view that I hadn’t considered before. What is your take on MOOCs and have you personally experienced one before? I know that particularly within the field of marketing, online courses and associated certificates are recognised as being valid indications of learning and training. Do you think that this might only apply for closed courses, or also for open courses, such as MOOCs?
Furthermore, in terms of copyright issues, this blog post and this article outline that MOOCs can be at risk of copyright infringement, whereby materials and data may be being used incorrectly, or without permission. What are your thoughts on these copyright issues in relation to MOOCs?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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Hi Patricia and thank you for your kind words!
My most recent experience with a MOOC was actually for one of my modules from this term. I found it very useful as it helped me to develop my research topic for a Research Proposal – assignment for my Business Research module.
Despite being very useful on many occasions, just as the one described above, I don’t think MOOCs should be ‘certified’ by those who organise them. As I am interested in football, I completed a Football Marketing and Management course organised by the Sports Business Institute in Barcelona. This was a very enjoyable experience, which enriched my knowledge about the business of football. Even if I was awarded a certificate at the end of the course, I consider I deserved it as the size of the course was not very large and we had weekly discussions with the Director of the Institute. Thereby it was a ‘not that massive’ online course, that also required a join-in fee.
The articles you shared with me emphasize a real concern: the chance that content used for MOOCs is violating the copyright. However, it was reliving to read that people who want to start a MOOC receive support from multiple sources. My point of view is that platforms that host MOOCs should be closely supervise their progress and the content used. Thereby, a very strong copyright team would be demanded.
Thanks again for taking time to comment on my blog!
It’s great to hear about your experiences with MOOCs and other online courses, thank you for sharing those with me!
You raise a good point that despite the issues of copyright associated with MOOCs, there are resources out there, such as this Jisc Legal Guide, to help MOOC hosts handle these issues responsibly.
It’s also interesting to hear your thoughts on whether MOOCs should be accredited or not. Personally, and even more so after taking this module, I see MOOCs as a chance for education (i.e., gaining knowledge and skills), rather than an opportunity to gain an accredited qualification. Whilst to some this may reduce the value of participating in a MOOC, because it is not perceived as beneficial to career development, I do believe that the value of education itself should not be undermined. Do you agree?
This article outlines that a major problem with MOOCs is their completion rates, with an average of only 5% of students completing courses on Coursera (according to a 2013 study). Why do you think these rates are so low, and do you think it could be to do with professional accreditation as we have discussed?
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Hi again Patricia,
Thanks for sharing with me all these interesting resources. I am supporting the accreditation of MOOCs and I think their completion should be considered a valuable human capital resource.
I think the completion rates are quite low because people don’t find the motivation of finishing their courses, as in many cases the assessments are very informal and the participants join in just to have a taste of the particular subject.
Thanks for this engaging discussion,
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thank you for the informative post, you have successfully covered a range of areas that relate to open access.
I would like to discuss paywalls to a greater extent. As a student I am biased towards the idea that all information should be made freely available, as it simply makes my life easier. However, I have found that there are various kinds of paywalls. Soft paywalls for example, allows readers to access a range of articles before using up the given quote. Maybe this would establish some sort of middle ground compared to the hard paywall?
I personally believe that the real frustration as a student is buying an article that doesn’t give you the information you paid for. What are your thoughts? If I was given more information on the results of the study I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to see how it was carried out.
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Thanks for taking time to comment on my blog. The paywall subject is definitely an interesting and at the same time controversial one. I think it is really difficult to find a golden mean, but at the moment, at least in regards with education, journals are nowhere near. I don’t think you have a cost-effective option as a student in case you want to purchase an article that you don’t have access to. However, in the case of University of Southampton, we are quite lucky to be able to request access to articles, even if our institution is not owning them. Requests can be made at the following link: http://library.soton.ac.uk/ill/illug.
I hope that in the near future, researchers will have easy access to all the information they need, in a timely and cost-effective way.
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Hi Andrei, I found your post very engaging. Your knowledge economy infographic was captivating and I liked the strong use of color.
Towards the start of your post, you talk about the desire for works to be included in the most distinguished of journals. The prestige is obviously important to the content producers and I think that this pattern will be hard to shake as this culture is deeply rooted in academia .
If open access does take off, I believe that a peer trust based system would provide the content producers the gratification that they desire when the publish their work. If peers are able to approve and endorse each other’s work, then their papers will gain credit through a wider, more diverse audience then the editorial process of individual journals.
Do you feel that this community driven approach would work in practice or can you offer another approach to assess credibility?
1. Callaham M, Wears RL, Weber E. Journal prestige, publication bias, and other characteristics associated with citation of published studies in peer-reviewed journals. Jama. 2002 Jun 5;287(21):2847-50.
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Hi Jordan and thank you for the appreciation!
I agree with you when it comes to shaking the existing model, deeply rooted in academia. Assuming that open access takes off, I consider that the model suggested by you would be the most suitable alternative. Peer reviewing is already a well-established practice, which distinguishes the high-quality journals. Thereby, this community driven approach would probably be the best available option. However, in case the open access will be adopted by everybody, I have the feeling that the existing highly reputed publications will maintain their status, at least in first instance.
Thank you for an excellent post. I enjoyed reading about Open Access (OA) across different cultures, supported by good references. I also liked how you mentioned MOOC, something I did not consider.
The issue of socioeconomics motivated me to examine the issues of OA in developing countries. Dickson (2012) stated that OA in these countries are pivotal as they have less money to fund the journals, which prevents them from accessing the latest research. However, Bayry (2013) reported that developing countries have published more journals over the years, suggesting that OA is significantly increasing worldwide.
Therefore, future research should address the options for academics in developing countries to publish their research for universal access. This can have major benefits, such as promoting the researcher’s career to an international level. How do you think we can further tackle the issue of OA in developing countries?
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Bayry, J. (2013). Journals: Open-access boom in developing nations. Nature, 497, 40. doi: 10.1038/497040e
Dickson, D. (2012). Developing world gains open access to science research, but hurdles remain. The Guardian.
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Hi Beth and thank you for your comment!
I consider the matter of the open access in the developing countries is a major one. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the populations of these less favoured regions are facing factors that are denying their access to information through other means. Dunn’s article (referenced in my article) provides the case study from the African country which is relevant in this context. As long as some people’s access to technology is denied, we are a bit ambitious to try facilitating their access to education through open access.
Despite these factors, hard to control, I would like to see reputable publications, as Financial Times or Harvard Business Review, facilitating open access to the developing countries. This would be a noble thing to do and a life-changer for a big number of people, or at least a source of information that will allow them to stay updated with the most recent worldwide trends and events.
With best regards,
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Thanks for the response! You raise an interesting point regarding technology. In 2011, Ekekwe reported that Africa experienced a wave of technology consumerism from top companies around the globe. Further, although many countries in Africa have access to the Web, some are struggling with adapting to it (flashback to Topic 1). I think it is also important to address the infrastructure (Tempest, 2013). For instance, many African researchers still rely on paper format journal articles. Thus it is important to assess their transition from print to electronic.
Additionally, some publishers in Africa and other developing countries consider alternative methods (Bayry, 2013). For example, some participate in Research4Life, a programme consisting of free to low-cost subscription journals, which benefit the majority. Perhaps it is important to explore and research other routes outside the open access model. What are your thoughts on this? I would be interested to hear them!
In regards to your last point, some individuals have placed the responsibility with the government (Worstall, 2013). They believe the officials should provide everyone with access to the Web. Therefore, this can lead to more users using open access. Do you agree with this?
Bayry, J. (2013). Journals: Open-access boom in developing nations. Nature, 497. doi: 10.1038/497040e
Ekekwe, N. (2011). The new entrepreneurial waves in Africa. Harvard Business Review.
Tempest, D. (2013). Open access in Africa – changes and challenges. Elsevier Connect.
Worstall, T. (2013). Google’s excellent plan to bring wireless Internet to developing countries. Forbes.
Thank you for another great blog post! I really enjoyed reading it this week, the use of colour and subheadings made it a really easy read!
I really enjoyed your use of power point, especially the one on the effect of Open Access on the art industry- something I hadn’t thought about in regards to Open Access. It was really nice to read something from a different point of view, instead of just looking at it from a scientific viewpoint.
I see you haven’t discussed the viewpoint of businesses. I feel like you should read The Ed Techie as it gives a great perspective on how businesses will benefit from Open Access from a range of viewpoints. Do you think that Open Access is vital for upcoming and small businesses?
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Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog and for appreciating my post. The article suggested by you was very informative and opened new horizons for me, in regards with the benefits of open access for businesses. I wouldn’t say that open access will be vital for upcoming and small businesses. However, I think this can become a cheap and quite effective training option for employees. Companies as SAP have already implemented a collection of online training courses open to all their employees. Thereby, people can choose areas where they want to improve themselves and take advantage of these resources.
I’m glad that my link was enlightening! That’s a really helpful point of view. I had not thought up until now about the training that Open Access could be used for and the cost effectiveness of it. Thinking about it, I work at Costa and we have online courses that we can access in all areas from health and safety to employee relationships. This is very similar to the SAP you discuss. Thank you for allowing me to make that connection as it helps me understand my argument more. Do you think that providing all these courses for free affects the quality?
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From my point of view, the provision of these courses for free might affect the quality, if the number of people who complete them is really high. On the other hand, if a fair and rigorous assessment method would be implemented, then we will witness a phenomenon similar to the one experienced by Coursera, where the number of people who complete the courses is significantly lower compared to the one of people who start them. However, this is not an indicator of doubtful quality, but the opposite.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment on my blog.