Open Access – Freeing up Scholarly Content

I realize I’m about a week late on this post but I don’t think it has to be Open Access week for us to discuss Open Access issues.

Open access refers to the principle and practice of making scholarly publications free and open to everyone. While you’re at McGill you may not reflect often on the fact that the articles you cite in your papers aren’t actually free. They’re free to you while you’re in school (well…note technically free…you pay tuition) but if you’ve ever tinkered around on Google Scholar and been asked to pay $40 to access an article, you’ve dipped your toe in the world of paid-for academic content.

Why does open access matter? Well, for one, most scholarly articles are to some extent publicly funded (that is, they are authored by people working at publicly funded institutions such as universities). Additionally though, it allows for information to be disseminated and spread to the widest audience possible. The more people who can access the work you’ve done, the more people who can build it on it and advance their own research. It is believed that this leads to greater discoveries and knowledge.

Open access isn’t without its detractors and even within academic circles, certain concepts of open access are misunderstood.

What do you think? Are we moving to a model of free scholarly content? What are your opinions on the open access debate?


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