The advantages and disadvantages of an open access approach towards content production

How often do you encounter the issue outlined in the above video? In the past, concerns have been raised over increasing amounts of research content becoming exclusively accessible through ‘content paywalls’ (Lepitak, 2013). Today, I feel this fear has come to light, as can be seen with the development of tools such as www.unpaywall.org which trawl the web to identify free versions of pay walled papers (I highly recommend this tool!). More broadly this behaviour can be seen as part of an Open Access (OA) movement.

What is Open Access?

Stemming from the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), OA looks to use the web to offer free and unrestricted access to research material. Two strategies have been developed in an attempt to achieve this:

Self created video created with Powtoon based on slides by Professor Leslie Carr found at: http://slideplayer.com/slide/2396811/

While these approaches focus on academic research material, similar measures are also being taken with other material including teaching resources in the form of Open Educational Resources (OERs) such as KhanAcademy (Wiley, Green, & Soares, 2012). These resources present an opportunity for those with minimal access to education (Dunn, 2013). In both instances the role of the web is essential.

When addressing Open Access it is important to avoid a knee jerk acceptance in the same way I advised when discussing Net Neutrality in my last post. This is evidenced in the advantages and disadvantages below:

oa2

Self created graphic created with Canva, loosely based on blog found at: https://www.edanzediting.com/blogs/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-open-access

Fundamentally I feel the benefits of open access far outweigh any drawbacks. However a decision to pursue this approach comes down to the individual content producer. Do they want to increase readership and increase citations (assuming the content is research based)? Almost certainly yes, but do they want to do so at a cost to themselves (gold) or by violating copyright (green)? The risks involved may discourage a content producer from adopting an open access approach.

Word count: 296

References

Budapest Open Access Initiative. (2002). Budapest Open access Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml

Carr, L. (n.d.). Open Access: the Discipline of Public Knowledge. Retrieved from SlidePlayer: http://slideplayer.com/slide/2396811/

Dunn, D. (2013, April 7). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/education-finally-ripe-for-radical-innovation-by-social-entrepreneurs/#7f09d9605081

Edanz. (2013, October 25). Advantages and disadvantages of open access. Retrieved from edanzediting: https://www.edanzediting.com/blogs/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-open-access

Lepitak, S. (2013, April 12). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Retrieved from TheDrum: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests

Wiley, D., Green, C., & Soares, L. (2012). Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER: How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning. Center for American Progress.

 

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14 thoughts on “The advantages and disadvantages of an open access approach towards content production

  1. Hi Callum,

    I enjoyed reading your blog this week – well written and concise. I too feel that the benefits of open access outweigh the cons, but I believe that’s because I will only ever view this debate from the point of view of a student without the money to spend on articles; so I feel I won’t ever really understand the true picture. This made me think, what about the point of view of someone from within academia? but not a content producer? I had a look around and found this article written by a professor http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2013/10/04/open-access-is-not-the-problem/ who has proven that open access can cause the standards of certain journals to slip in a bid to increase revenue.. What’s your take on this, as a student who could potentially be citing these works in your university work?

    Thanks!
    Madeleine

    (140 words)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Madeleine

      Thanks for your comment!
      I too share your bias with regards to open access. After the number of times I’ve tried to gain access to articles, I don’t think I could ever truly oppose open access. The link you provided raises an extremely interesting point. However I feel green open access can solve this problem by ensuring authors continue to publish in respected journals but also post an additional copy in an open access repository. Students looking to cite the work could then cross reference between a repository and a journal to determine it’s credibility? Perhaps as well as promoting content producers to make their work openly accessible, we also need to promote readers on how to use the work effectively.

      Thanks

      Callum

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Callum,

    It’s good to see you have gone into a lot of detail regarding Open Access from a content producers point of view as well as the consumers. With regards to your suggestion of using unpaywall.org do you think using certain websites or extensions to access paid content for free is ethical? And what would be the consequences if these tools were widely used?

    Similarly do the circumstances of Open Access change depending on the industry? For example, a musician or recording artist may not have the same motivation to make their material open access than a scientist or academic who wishes to get their research published. Moreover, do you think there is a distinct difference between open access and online piracy? I look forward to hearing your response.

    Regards
    Ji

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ji

      Thanks for your comment. Personally I do think it is the right thing to do, though as I mentioned, authors need to be careful and ensure they are not violating copyright when publishing in open access repositories. If these tools were widely used I’d hope that more authors would be encouraged to post in open access repositories, hence allowing more people to read their work. I certainly feel Green OA is the route to go down. Do you have a preference?

      I definitely feel that the choice to openly publish work should be on the individual, each individual has different aspirations for their work as you mentioned. Additionally, I think the difference between OA and piracy lies in this choice. If consent from the author of the work elsewhere is not granted, then I feel this is piracy rather than open access.

      Thanks

      Callum

      Like

  3. Hi Callum, I’d like to start by saying what a fantastic idea it was to create a screen share to illustrate your point. It’s nice to see, and from our Twitter discussion how you are also benefiting from the use of unpaywall.org too.

    I really like your PowToon and found this an informative way of discussing the green and gold options to OA. Having only touched upon this briefly in my research I am most pleased to have learnt more about this from your work. In particular, I note you touch upon this idea that ‘repositories’ may violate copyright? However, upon further reading around this point I came across this article http://sparc.arl.org/resources/articles/oa-copyright which suggests there are no violations to copyright infringements and would love to know if you have anymore information on this to support your point? Furthermore, I also found out that through the green option a researcher’s work will often be subject to an embargo period, do you think this could be an advantage or disadvantage?

    Harriet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Harriet
      I’m pleased you enjoyed my post.

      Thanks for the link it’s a really interesting read. Looking at the article, what I feel it is trying to explain is that Green OA can be achieved without violating copyright, which of course it can. When submitting to a journal, sometimes only a small amount of rights are assigned to the publisher, allowing the author to legally publish the work elsewhere. However in many cases, the publisher is assigned full copyright. While permission to access in a repository can be sought, I feel this is not always done due to the lack of regulation in some repositories.
      With regards to a researcher’s work being subject to an embargo period, I’m definitely in favour of this. Publishers couldn’t complain if material was posted openly if they had an opportunity to stop it from happening.

      Hope that’s cleared up my views!

      Thanks
      Callum

      Like

      1. Hi Callum,

        Thank you for your explanation. I have since delved further into this through extensive research into your point about the lack of regulation in some repositories. I came across the work of Grant, Webb and Bustillo (2015) whereby the Digital Repository of Ireland a discussion of copyright in the development of ‘an interactive national Trusted Digital Repository’ was provided. The findings support your claim, and go onto suggest that it isn’t possible to develop an appropriate or robust policy without the guidance of a legal advisor which poses the question that do you think Universities for example don’t have enough money to budget for a legal advisor in helping create these types of policies, and it’s for that reason that copyright is sometimes violated?

        Harriet.

        Grant, R., Webb, S. and Bustillo, M. (2015) ‘A consideration of copyright for a national repository of humanities and social science data’, Library Information Research, 39(121), pp. 22-44. Available at: http://www.lirgjournal.org.uk/lir/ojs/index.php/lir/article/viewFile/671/700 (Accessed: 12 May 2017).

        Like

  4. Hi Callum,

    I was interested by your point mentioning papers are a lucrative business and a great way of earning money for publishers. I think this is the most problematic issue when debating open access. I believe access to educational resources should be free. However when I apply the same theory to news, I struggle. Print media is declining and as a result news companies are struggling to earn profits. This journal article (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884914530223) discusses how print media tries to keep up with technological developments, like incorporating paywalls for online content. If all media content became free that would could threaten the entire media. It’s a necessary tool for us to understand everything that I support some kind of paywall to keep them going. So in this respect, I believe in open access for academia but not necessarily for news. Do you agree?

    (Word count: 148)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Caiti
    Thanks for your comment. I must admit I do often focus too heavily on scholarly work when discussing open access. It encompasses so much more!

    I find it interesting that you support paywalls for news outlets. I understand your reasoning but I disagree. There are examples of outlets offering news online for free such as NME who in fact do so as a response to the issues you mention https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/06/sink-or-swim-for-nme-as-long-running-magazine-becomes-free-from-september. Whilst I understand this is more of an entertainment outlet it shows that companies can still perform online without the use of a paywall. Instead users have to pay for content through other means such as surrendering their data to advertisers, though this is a whole other issue in itself. So whilst making all media free may threaten the industry, that’s not to say it shouldn’t happen. Instead companies need to respond to this threat.

    Thanks
    Callum

    Like

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