Open Access Publishing

by Graham Cox last modified 2012-01-17T09:57:27-04:00
The move to an Open Access publishing model is the only model of publishing that embodies all of the values of the academy. The campaigns to implement funds to support open access should be established as a priority for all universities and governments that fund them.

 

Speed and ease are the two things that matter when accessing information in the current research environment. This is especially the case for researchers in Canadian universities who are competing with other researchers around the world. The up-front costs to access information in journals is a burden on the budgets of university libraries and research budgets and is reducing the pace of research and the exchange of new and exciting discoveries.

In the public education system, the funds used to create original works come from the tax-paying public. The creators of works of art or research at publicly funded institutions receive their pay through government grants. Professors, assisted by graduate students, get grants through publicly funded agency (e.g. NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR) in the form of grants and scholarships. In this scenario, the taxpayer has already paid the creator for the work they produce. We argue that, because of this, there is no reason for the public or, indeed, other public researchers to pay restrictive user fees to access the results of academic research.

The distribution of content should be carried out in such a way to maximize access and minimize the cost for the public. The Internet provides a great opportunity to do both. For academic writing, the most efficient way to distribute information is through Open Access Journals and Open Access distributors and publishers on the Internet. Open Access refers to the publishing model where up-front costs are eliminated for published research articles and the user is free to copy and distribute the research articles they have downloaded to their peers and the public at large.

This approach does not mean that students or professors would be giving away their rights to the work, as is common practice in the private, monopoly publishing industry. The less restrictive copyrights used in Open Access publishing allow the creator to maintain rights over any commercial production of their work such as a printed book or reproduction meant for sale. If that were the case, only the creators would be able to make money from their work. However, for those interested in reading the works for interest would not be bound by any restrictions on copying and distribution.

Copyright and the publicly funded education system

Currently, the academic community pays large sums of money through their publicly funded university libraries in order to access its own works. With subscription fees to academic journals increasing every year, the cost to the public is excessively high, but the distribution of information to students and researchers is slow, which in turn, slows the rate of innovation.

In addition, the public itself is completely left out of this equation and does not have access to the information produced by the research it funds. This is because academic libraries, needing to balance tight budgets, continue to sign agreements with the publishers where they agree to limit access to their materials to the academic community. In the end, limiting access to information that he public has paid for only decreases the rate at which good ideas can reach others and thus slows the rate at which innovations can be used.

Increased user costs are also limiting access to research results in the rest of the world. Restricting access to wealthy countries and universities hinders innovation and reduces the size of the research community. Indeed, restricting access only limits the ability for Canadian researchers to coordinate research internationally. At the very least, it puts researchers that are in poorer universities (even in the “developed world”) at a disadvantage by hampering their access to new information while cutting off potentially important research collaborations.

In order to ensure adequate sharing and circulation of information, it is crucial that publicly funded research results be made available through an Open Access model. Additionally, increased access for the public and fair remuneration for the creator must be the sole incentive for changes in the copyright law.

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