The Open Access Debate


Open access is “about making all scientific research content available for anyone anywhere in the world” (Shockey and Eisen, 2012). The short video below explains the key difference between open and restricted access, using the characters of Charles and Julie.

Throughout this module, we have been embracing the digital tools and information available to us in order to develop our knowledge on different topics and make new discoveries. We have only been able to do this because the information is open to us.

So, evidently open access has its advantages:

“Education is a matter of sharing” (Wiley et al, 2014).

Scientific research should be about spreading the word, not about whether you can afford the paywall fee. Source

Open access encourages the discovery of new ideas and spreading them aroundThis article (2014) tells the story of Jack Andraka who, without access to journal articles due to paywall barriers, created a paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers in five minutes. He argues the importance of open access in removing “an important financial barrier to knowledge”. With the help of open access, science can spread and discoveries should happen faster.

Peter Coles (2012) highlights how open access is crucial in maintaining confidence in science. As he states, “to seek to prevent your data becoming freely available is plain unscientific” and, one might add, immoral, as Mike Taylor (2013) explains here from hindsight. Simultaneously, open access would save universities an enormous amount of money and tax payers would receive value for money.

However, as Peter Suber (2013) explains in this article, there are many myths, often developed by journalists and academics, surrounding open access which hold back its advancement.

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks whilst researching with the following nasty phrase…?

😦 Source

I have, and I didn’t realise that there was a system behind this. Why would producers want to hide their material from knowledge seekers? We must therefore consider the disadvantages of open access.

Should knowledge be locked up or free for everyone?Source

Arguably journals which restrict access demonstrate the prestige of the articles that they contain. Do open access journals have the same desire for quality? As described by Richard Van Noorden (2013), some researchers opt out of open access to prevent their work from being used alongside advertising content. Researchers might also be discouraged because if the reader is not contributing to the publication fee, it’s the author’s responsibility.

Should we, like Peter Suber (2009) urges, move beyond prejudice and trust open access journals? I personally believe that we should. Openness is clearly the future: it enhances research, increases visibility and accelerates scientific progress.

Knowledge Unlatched
A plea to the scientific researchers out there! Source

Word Count: 437


Coles, P. (2012) ‘Open access will be crucial to maintain public confidence in science’, The Guardian. Accessed 5/12/15 from

McGill Library (2012) Open Access. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Shockey, N and Eisen, J. (2012) Open Access Explained. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Steakley, L. (2013) ‘Teen cancer researcher Jack Andraka discusses open access in science, stagnation in medicine’, Scope. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Suber, P. (2013) ‘Open access: six myths to put to rest’, The Guardian. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Suber, P. (2009) ‘Ten challenges for open-access journals’, SPARC. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Taylor, M. (2013) ‘Hiding your research behind a paywall is immoral’ The Guardian. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Van Noorden, R. (2013) ‘Researchers opt to limit uses of open-access publications’, Nature. Accessed 5/12/15 from

Wiley, D., Green, C. and Soares, L. (2012) Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER. Accessed 5/12/15 from




7 thoughts on “The Open Access Debate

  1. Hi Lucy,

    I really enjoyed your blog this week. It had a good balance between advantages and disadvantaged and your use of other media resources such as your relevant pictures and your YouTube link were really helpful. I haven’t really looked at Open Access before this week and I liked the way you linked the model of openness to the module aims as a whole. We wouldn’t be able to successfully complete this module if the internet wasn’t as open as it is.

    Something I’ve found to be a common trait with the majority of the posts looking at Open Access this week is the emphasis on the Sciences and the need for journal articles to be open to help develop further research. While your example of Jack Andraka certainly cements the importance of continuing scientific research, I’m wondering why there’s not as much concern for Open Access for Humanities and Arts subject. Is it simply the case that many consider the Humanities to be a “lesser” subject matter than Sciences? Or is there little need to develop existing research on cultural subjects.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Great blog! Thanks again.


    1. Hi Sophie,

      I agree- the majority of bloggers focussed on Open Access in relation to Science and journal articles. I don’t believe that Humanities are a “lesser” subject matter but I think that while there is evident importance to develop scientific research in order to, for example, find cures to diseases, there is not equal need for the development of research on cultural subjects. Scientific research is, in my opinion, more urgent than research on cultural studies.
      Also, Katie posted a video on her blog which I’d like to repost here. It brought to my attention that some of the world’s largest funders who support open access are mostly medical and health charities and funders. Do you think this means that there is generally more support for scientific research becoming open in comparison to research on cultural studies?

      Thank you for your comment- very thought provoking!



      1. Hi Lucy,

        I would be inclined to agree with you that scientific research is more urgent than cultural studies. I recently spoke to the Research and Innovation Services (RI&S) at the University and found that a lot of funding that the University applies for and is success in obtaining is for science and medical development because it is in the public’s interest whereas some would argue that cultural studies has little impact on society as a whole.

        Nevertheless, I do believe cultural studies is still really important and in some respects, can complement science subjects well. Even at the University of Southampton, medics are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of ethics in medicine, so much so that a new module on the subject was created in the medicine curriculum. ( This module demonstrates the increasing need for science subjects to consider ethics and human interaction. Even in the English department, modules such as Figure of the Child and Science and Nonsense have a scientific element. Perhaps the two can work together to enhance a piece of research.

        Thanks for responding!


  2. Hi Lucy,

    Your post is extremely well reasoned and back up with some interesting sources. Sophie’s comment above really caught my eye and I wanted to give my opinion, it’ll be really interesting to hear what you have to say too! All of the sources I came across when I started looking into Open Access last week were about how research in the scientific sphere can be forwarded by open access because more brains can work on the material, meaning that faster progress is inevitable. A large chunk of the articles and videos were talking about medical research in particular, Jake Andraka, whose remarkably story you mentioned, being a popular example.

    I would say that I don’t think the arts and humanities are necessarily seen as lesser subjects but that there is less room for groundbreaking developments, as thinking in the arts generally evolves at a much slower pace. The findings of research in the arts are obviously hugely important but not as relevant for as many people as, for example, a way of diagnosing a form of cancer.

    Looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say on the subject!




  3. Hey Katie,

    It was really interesting to hear your thoughts as well on Sophie’s question. As I replied to her comment above, I don’t think that Humanities are seen as “lesser” subjects, but I feel that there is more urgent need for the development of scientific research.This doesn’t mean, in my opinion, that Humanities deserve less attention or that they aren’t equally as worthy as subjects.

    Thanks for commenting and also joining in with Sophie’s comment!


    Liked by 1 person

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