Hit a brick wall

While it can be argued that one of the main purposes of the internet is to share, and receive information with ease, it has been noted that the current scientific model, dating back to the 1600s, makes this process somewhat challenging (Tracz and Lawrence, 2016).

According to Mayyasia (2013) scientist follow a ‘consistent pattern’ that has almost become institutionalised.

Although this act of publishing seems to enable people all over the world to gain access to research, often these papers are sat behind a paywall and subscriptions to these have increased massively. This article illustrates some of these horrifying statistics.

As it is impossible to buy access to every journal students must pay the price in losing out on core journals having to use what is available not necessarily what they need (Right to Research, 2010). Many universities are cancelling subscriptions because of this, thus lowering the pool of educational resources rather than increasing it.

As a student, I am all too familiar with that gut wrenching feeling you get when you finally find the perfect journal you have spent hours trying to locate to be told you can’t access it unless you pay an extortionate amount of money.

However, there are several solutions to this increasingly prominent problem; such as, Unpaywall.org, Open Education Recourses and Open Access Mega Journals, which are placed under the term ‘Open Access’.

So, what is Open Access?

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 20.07.48

Wiley (2014).

Although, open access seems like a notoriously obvious solution to a problem faced by so many, it does however come with both advantages and disadvantages.

Below I have created an Infographic using Venngage recommended by @S2Hewitt on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 21.56.25Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 21.56.45.png

For me, one of the biggest issues with Open Access is its ability to enable another user to republish your work without seeking permission (Tennant et al. 2016).

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 20.27.57

However, from the above discussion I was able to learn about the NON-PROFIT organisation ‘Creative Commons’ which if used in conjunction with Open Access would enable scientific research to be shared more openly and easily enabling new ideas and creations to happen (Gulley, 2013).

Having said that, I agree with several of the disadvantages outlined by Beall (2015) which are supported by Osbourne (2013) suggesting that while Open Access appears all kosher on the surface there are several hidden issues with the model disguised behind the masses of Internet pings in favour of it. While I agree with both sides of the argument I believe, it goes without saying that regardless of the many issues outlined there are however far more benefits and I agree with several points outlined by Shockey and Eisen (2012) in their YouTube video.

I think the metaphor below neatly sums up these opposing models.


Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 19.55.09.png


Open Access

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 19.59.56.png

Word count: 384


Beall, J. (2015) What the Open-Access Movemnet Doesn’t Want You To Know. Available at: https://www.aaup.org/article/what-open-access-movement-doesn’t-want-you-know#.WQ8mPhiZN0t (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Gulley, N. (2013) ‘Creative Commons: challenges and solutions for researchers; a publisher’s perspective of copyright in an open access enviroment’, Insights, 26(2). Available at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:NQs4n_pFDHUJ:insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/2048-7754.107/galley/64/download/+&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=safari (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Mayyasia,  A. (2013) Why is Science Behind a Paywall. Available at: https://priceonomics.com/post/50096804256/why-is-science-behind-a-paywall  (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Osbourne, R. (2013) ‘Why open access makes no sense, The Guardian, 8 July. Available at: https://amp.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/jul/08/open-access-makes-no-sense (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Right to Research (2010) The Problem: Students can’t access essential research. Available at: http://www.righttoresearch.org/learn/problem/index.shtml (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Shockley, N. and Eisen, J. (2012) Open Access Explained. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5rVH1KGBCY&t=4s (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Tennant, J.P., Waldner, F., Jacques, D.C., Masuzzo, P., Collister, L.B. and Hartgerink, H.J.(2016) ‘The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review’, F1000Research, 5(632). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837983/ (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Tracz, V. and Lawrence, R. (2016) ‘Towards an open science publishing platform’, F100Research, 5(130). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768651/ (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

Wiley. (2014) Understanding Open Access. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2HMouOV-Lg&t=1s (Accessed: 7 May 2017).

17 thoughts on “Hit a brick wall

  1. Hi Harriet
    Well done on the post, it’s really great! You provide a thorough and informative overview of open access.

    With regards to our discussion on Twitter, I wondered if you could elaborate on your experience with Unpaywall. In the brief time I’ve used it I’ve found it provides access to a fair amount of papers. Though the majority are still inaccessible without a subscription, I still use it just for its convenience. How do you see things progressing in the future? I do hope the tool is more widely adopted and it encourages content producers consider open access.

    You raise an interesting point about the possibility of Creative Commons working alongside open access in order to limit republishing work without consent. Do you feel this is the main reason many content producers fail to go down the open access route or is it simply a lack of awareness?



    1. Hi Callum,

      Thank you for your kind feedback, its’s great to hear it’s been helpful in your journey of learning on the topic. I must agree with you here that for me also it has been very brief and was only since researching for this topic that I came across it, and have since used it in accessing several papers for my dissertation. I am yet to come across a paper I can’t access so I have been incredibly lucky in that sense. I suspect a number the number of students using the site will increase tremendously however I beg the question as to how many people from the older generation will use it. As I touched upon in my post, I feel the older generation, are stuck in a consistent pattern and they fear the unknown which makes me re question Prensky’s notion of natives and immigrants and would pose the question to whether there is such thing as immigrants but more people who are stubborn and stuck in a way they don’t fear. What do you think?

      Regarding your next point I am very much on the fence; in one sense, I feel the fear of the unknown and as I’ve said being stuck in a consistent pattern is one argument, but on the other hand I feel there is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal about this notion and so find it very hard to conclude. What do you think?



      1. Hi Hariett
        Thanks for the reply.

        That’s really good to hear, I’m definitely going to continue to use it in the future. I completely agree with you that the older generation may be reluctant to use the technology due to fear of change. However I feel the real problem is a lack of awareness, as hinted at in my previous comment. Whilst a lack of awareness with such a new tool is to be expected, I also think there is a fundamental lack of awareness of open access in general, which leads me on to your next question. I’m pretty certain that many more authors would make their work openly accessible if they were made aware of how to do so. This is something that must be changed if open access is to succeed.

        Thanks for the discussion and the engagement on Twitter!


  2. Hi Harriett,

    Ways ‘freely available’ encompasses dimensions beyond Open Access were well-delineated, particularly highlighting different solutions making content freely available.

    You mention in the Venngage quality control is an Open Access disadvantage: what are your views on Open Access potentially redefining quality-based models altering ways quality is adjudged; moving from ‘elite’ journalistic paywalls Lepitak cites http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests towards meritocracies providing equality, or even equal quality?

    This is similar to the innovative learning model disruptions Dunn argues occur in MOOCs offering high-scale, low-cost access, https://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/education-finally-ripe-for-radical-innovation-by-social-entrepreneurs/#4b1ad8d75081 raising implications for the knowledge economy http://openaccess.nl/en/what-is-open-access/pros-and-cons complimenting and replacing capitalist economic characteristics Adler explores: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~padler/research/MHT-2.pdf

    Would Open Access encourage cyclical quality improvements between academics: works become higher quality as all content is available to cite and build upon through learning networks: Much like Fred/George accessing Platform 9¾, will others accessing content, like Harry, follow once a few start, or are macro-scale top-down approaches required?




    1. Hi Will,

      Thank you for your comments.

      I personally disagree with several of the points Lepitak outlines in this article; for example, suggesting 90% would be behind paywalls in coming years when it is notoriously obvious that this is in fact, in my opinion, a false accusation. I mean there are many media sources such as Netflix requiring subscriptions, however there are also a vast number of sites like, Khan Academy and Wikiversity enabling people to access content freely, and therefore I feel his work is an unreliable source and judgement is hard to pass based on his work. I would therefore still argue that although it is evident there are a few quality control checks implemented when choosing to opt for OA, I have learnt from my peers work and subsequent reading that these are different when deciding between the green and gold option, and I feel to overcome this issue a neutral ground between green and gold should be created. What do you think?

      Thanks again for your comments Will, a great level of discussion and analysis is always brought forward by your comments, and it’s great to see someone developing on my work in such a detailed way.



      1. Hi Harriet,

        Thank you for your reply,

        Your critique around Lepitak highlighted dangers in depending on news-related sources, which often other purposes beyond furthering academic debate, like inciting interest, something raised in last week’s drop-in session around treating ‘grey’ literature carefully.

        The data Lepitak depends on seems to be based on hypothetical extrapolation, ironically, in line with your critique, the article does not appear to directly hyperlink to Simon-Kucher & Partners study in any way, so I had a bit of grief finding it!

        Thank you for sharing those repositories: the Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/ raises language-based Open Access factors: it lists ‘math by grade’ but in the UK, and across other countries, the ‘grade’ system is not always implemented. A literacy dimension emerges, around whether content needs to be made available in different languages which change academic norms and system references. Wikiversity accommodates for this better, using many different languages to present content on the first page. What are your views on this: are literacy, digital literacy changes necessary to facilitate Open Access that JISC raise https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/digital-literacies?

        Regarding green and gold, a middle ground between both and other model alternatives needs consideration: Hubbard argues a ‘rainbow’ of colours can support Open Access http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/documents/sherpaplusdocs/Nottingham-colour-guide.pdf.
        The predominant content producers explored this week were academic ones, which raises many stakeholders involve, like publishers, and changing their views around Open Access, who often prefer current business models as Carr discusses http://wiki.oii.ox.ac.uk/_media/sdp/sdp2008/oii.carr.ppt but outside publishing academic work, Open Access concerns raise issues like copyright, computer misuse and confidentiality, highlighting ethical issues discussed in Topic 4: just because we can make things open, it does not mean we should in all instances: how much do we want to be ‘Open’ and to what granularity, in cases with police data around crime mapping: https://www.police.uk/about-this-site/faqs/ a neutral ground considering the ‘rainbow’ of colours around Open Access models, accounting for all stakeholders, actors and factors involved. I don’t think one Open Access model fits all scenarios for making data available,

        Thank you also for your comments and replies and the high level discussions and analysis we had about the topics, and for helping develop debates mutually,




  3. Hi Harriet
    Really enjoyed reading your post this week! As students it’s quite easy to say that we would rather more journals were published via open access so that we can gain greater access to them, however content providers may not always agree, so I liked the fact that you did go into depth into the fact that open access may not be as great below the surface.
    I particularly liked the way you mentioned the history of publishing, and how we are stuck in certain patterns, do you think that this is possible to change? Or that instead the population in general are more likely to stick to the more traditional methods of publishing over open access?
    Word Count: 120


    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you so much! I found this topic quite challenging to get my head around and really thought I hadn’t done it any justice, and I’ve been overwhelmed with all the positive feedback I have received so thank you.

      I think you have hit the nail on the head there! I briefly touched upon a similar point in my response to Callum, suggesting those of the older generation are almost too stubborn and stuck in a rut of having too much fear of the unknown to break way from this way of publishing that seems instilled in them. Therefore, I really don’t know a way it can be changed, as like I said to Callum, there is more than enough research available to make an informed decision so maybe it’s a personal preference, I don’t know. I’d love to hear your views.

      Thanks again,



      1. Hi Harriet
        I’m glad you’ve enjoyed receiving such positive feedback from your blog this week!
        I understand completely where you are coming from, in that for us as the ones who are currently being blocked by journals paywalls, can find it hard to understand why more people aren’t publishing via open access. I also think we can definitely empathize with those who don’t have a university that does subscribe to journals, as I couldn’t imagine trying to write essays without the many subscriptions that Southampton has taken out.
        Like you have suggested I feel that it is partly down to a personal choice of both producers and readers, because surely if we have access to these journals behind paywalls, it makes sense to read them! However I feel that, like you suggested in your original post, open access isn’t the perfect solution to the issues of access for both content producers and readers, but hopefully this is something that will be resolved in the near future!


  4. Hi Harriet,

    Your blog post is immensely detailed and informative to the background and figures surrounding open access. I too have felt the struggles of getting stuck behind the ‘paywall’ having recently finished my dissertation.

    Although there are steps being taken in order for information to become more accessible and available for internet users, do you think that there is any more that can done to encourage open access?

    Furthermore, the debate over quality control in regards to open access journals seems to be a point everyone brings up as a disadvantage. Do you think that lower quality content would be published frequently enough to become a serious issue or do you think that scientists’ work would have already been assessed for quality?


    Word Count: 124


    1. Hi Ollie, wow! Thank you for such positive feedback! This is an interesting point, and one I have touched upon with both Callum and Rebecca, and I must say I really don’t know what else can be done as it seems there is already a large amount of research and evidence in favour of the notion, so I proposed it must be down to personal preference? What are your thoughts?

      Very good question! Now I initially thought quality control was a huge disadvantage of the model however from my comment on Callums work I could understand that this is however a far more pressing issue when the green option to open access is selected as those choosing the gold option are said to have to adhere to several quality control checks before their work is published. I would love to hear your thought on this, and welcome any opposing literature or ideas you have come across as I know from experience there is a lot of conflicting articles out there.



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