The Cost of Knowledge

Ever found that perfect research article for an essay, then three clicks later been greeted with this?Image

Find it frustrating? Me too. Restricting access to research by placing it behind paywalls appears counterproductive. Research is useless if it cannot be accessed; professors can only teach, doctors can only advise on, and students can only write about, what they have read. Paywalls are restricting the pace of discoveries, subduing curiosity and affecting medical practice.

With many universities paying around £200 million a year in journal subscription fees, not even well-endowed universities such as Harvard can afford these prices. Yet without these subscriptions, and with journal articles at around £20 apiece, completing my recent essay would have cost me over £2000! Journals are effectively selling research back to the universities that generate it and taxpayers who fund it.

Open Access (OA) provides a solution; free access to, and reuse of, research online for everyone through either Gold or Green OA systems.  Without paywalls, greater accessibility to articles will help accelerate scientific research. Hopefully the government will fulfil its commitment to make published research immediately accessible by 2014, following the recommendations of the Finch Report.

Increasing support for OA has been shown in recent years. Annual events as part of Open Access Week and a new button designed by students to maps paywalls over the globe have raised awareness of paywall restrictions!

After crashing into so many paywalls while at university, this button will definitely be the new addition to my browser!

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