Scientific papers are nowadays published in journals funded by major publishers. However, these journals have become more and more expensive while also becoming more restrictive. The open access model is the only way forward for scientific research. It enables unrestricted usage of scientific results, it brings down enormous costs, and it gives researchers the ability to perform better literature surveys.
The world of academia is, as very well put by PHD Comics, a very conservative world. Since the invention of the printing press, research gets published in bound journals and proceedings. However, while this was a very rewarding approach in the past, the Internet has made all this expensive printing unnecessary. Additionally, universities have to pay large licensing fees to be able to access all those papers, increasing the costs of scientific research.
Expensive for No Apparent Reason
Although the fees that academic institutions have to pay for scientific journals have been rising significantly, it is hard to imagine why. All the articles are provided by the researchers free of charge, as they want their work published. Furthermore, the peer reviews are made by other scientists who are neither employed by the publisher. Basically, journals make quite some money with merely providing editorial efforts.
One may argue that the publishers have had to invest into digitalisation of their archives and current publications. However, this also means that the need for printing physical versions lowers against steady payment of fees. It almost seems like the overall decline of revenue for publishing companies is passed on to the academic world.
Empowering Literature Research
All research projects start out with reviewing literature. Those who have read many scientific papers know that this is a burdensome task. One of the problems with studying literature is that abstracts commonly give not enough insight whether the paper is going to be useful or not. Abstracts are written to get readers interested in an article and, thus, not always aimed at specifically pointing out the direction of the paper.
If one does not have a subscription to a specific scientific journal, one can buy the papers individually, for quite a handsome amount. Taking into account the fact that abstracts are often not enough to decide how useful a certain article is, doing literature research means buying a lot of unneeded papers. Personally, this makes me choose papers in subscribed and free publication over paid issues. This means that important knowledge may be missed, which gravely holds back research.
Spreading the Knowledge
When papers are available free of charge, knowledge gets spread more easily. This means that finding foundations for novel directions is easier. Basically, open access empowers the basis of scientific research: contribution to the body of scientific knowledge and enabling other scientists to build further upon this work.
However, besides taking the idealistic road, for the authors of a paper being easy accessible is also important. When your articles are read by more people, chances are higher you will be cited in new publications. Given that most researchers are rewarded based on the amount of citations they have, this means more funds for future research and a better position on the academic ladder.
Scientific Research for the Future
The traditional concept of published research has served us well through the past centuries. However, in the age of the digital society, science needs to adapt to the modern ways of working. By going from the closed model towards open access, scientific results can become more widely spread and used within the scientific community. Additionally, unnecessary costs for licensing fees can be brought down. Therefore, academia should embrace open access, the scientific publishing of the future!
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