I don’t listen to Taylor Swift. This means, in essence, that if I want to listen to music, I can probably find it on Spotify.
And that’s great. As a student I pay a mere £5 every month for commercial-free listening to every song in Spotify’s extensive catalogue. Unfortunately, some people enjoy Folk-Pop and that’s where there’s an issue, because Taylor doesn’t agree with the way Spotify, and other services, value her craft. While it is, obviously, very cheap for me to listen to unlimited music where and when I want, there have been serious disputes over whether or not this is contributing to the destabilisation of the music industry.
Now, flip it around and you have the ‘open access in academia’ debate. Below is a chirpy little video by Wiley, explaining the apparent merits of open access and encouraging academics to consider its benefits, rather than conforming to the whims of expensive journals.
The basis of the problem is that scientific progress has a tendency to delay itself as a result of the extortionate prices of scientific journals. This video from PHD Comics goes into more detail of the average cost of journals to libraries, but the crux of the matter is that journal prices (particularly in the sciences) can reach averages of over £4,000 each because of their reputations.
And the outlook is bleak. Very few people (few, but not none) expect the availability of online content to go anywhere but down until serious changes are made to the way academic journals in particular are distributed, to make education more available. It is clear that there are advantages for academics who want to publish in these big, well-known journals. Exposure can be garnered and reputations made via journals that have an air of gravitas in the academic community.
However, there are actually advantages to open access in the academic world. As Wiley and PHD Comics have explained, it’s not necessarily an issue of funding, as research is often government-funded. While Taylor Swift doesn’t make her music completely exclusive just by removing it from Spotify, the same can’t be said for journals asking up to $40,000, such as Tetrahedron. It’s more an issue of where an academic can earn respect, and the main advantage of open access in the academic community is their contribution to progress, meaning that with great work will come great respect. Knowledge will become cyclical without finding some way to integrate those thinkers on the periphery who don’t have the resources to access exclusive work.
Business Insider article on Taylor Swift leaving Spotify
The Drum article on the future of content availability
EurekaAlert article on Evolution Letters
Forbes article on education innovation by social entrepreneurs
PHD Comics video on open access
Image from Boomsbeat.com