STUDENTS have an especially large stake in the debate about access to research. Expanding access will pay great dividends to students in a variety of ways:
- A complete education: students in any discipline need access to the latest research to have a complete education in their field of study that will allow them to hit the ground running after graduation. Limited access to research makes students settle for the information that is available rather than that which is most relevant. Open Access can ensure students get the best possible education and are not artificially limited by the selection of scholarly journals their campuses are able to provide.
- Research for papers: it’s a familiar story: you’re writing a paper for class and you need to cite articles from peer-reviewed journals. Eventually, you find an article that looks good — maybe via a search engine, a footnote from another source, or a reference in an index. You search the Web for the full text, but you can’t get past the abstract. You look on your library’s Web site but they don’t have a subscription. You’re stuck. Maybe that article would have been a major source for your work — you’ll never know. You don’t have access. Open Access changes that. No more worrying about whether you’re on the campus network or if your library has a subscription. If you’re online, you have access, period — anywhere in the world.
- The current system puts students from smaller schools at a disadvantage: due to the staggering price of journal subscriptions that can exceed $20,000, only the largest, most well-funded institutions have the opportunity to provide their students with the complete scholarly record. Students at many colleges and universities must make do with the access their library is able to afford. In addition, students at community colleges across the country, who comprise a significant portion of students in higher education, suffer from a near-total lack of access to the latest research, which remains locked away in expensive journals.
In addition to students, opening access to the results of research will benefit a wide variety of constituencies. Explore the links below to see how each specific group will gain significantly from increased access to scholarly journals:
PATIENTS AND THE FAMILIES OF PATIENTS
- Better visibility for researchers’ scholarship: when articles are publicly available, researchers’ scholarship is available to anyone who might search for it. That means more readers, more recognition, and more impact for each article. In fact, recent studies have shown that open-access articles are cited by other authors more frequently than comparable articles that aren’t openly available.
- Avoiding duplication: no researcher wants to waste time and money conducting a study if they know it has been attempted elsewhere. But, duplication of effort is all-too-possible when researchers can’t effectively communicate with one another and make results known to others in their field and beyond.
- Return on Investment: making research publicly available as soon as possible will allow other researchers to build on new ideas as soon as they are published, while in the current system these ideas might remained locked away and unable to advance to state of the field. To have the greatest possible impact, the research we fund as taxpayers must be made available to the largest possible audience to make use of and build upon new ideas.
- Exercising our Right to Research: as taxpayers who pay for much of the research published in journals, we have a collective right to access the information resulting from our investment.
- Access to the latest research allows small businesses to compete: the staggering cost of journal subscriptions in many fields prevents small businesses from accessing and utilizing cutting edge research. In fields from biotechnology to alternative energies, small businesses would greatly benefit from more complete access to the results of research. In fact, the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, has specifically mentioned small business as a driving force in developing revolutionary new energy technology; however, access to crucial information can be a large barrier for a start up when access to a single journal can exceed $10,000.
Alliance for Taxpayer Access: How OA Benefits Businesses
- Patients: as in the United States, patients in developing countries face significant barriers in accessing research crucial for making informed health care choices; however, their barriers are often much higher, because their institutions have even less money to spend on expensive journal subscriptions.
- Doctors: like their patients, doctors in developing countries face steep challenges in gaining access to the latest medical knowledge, often forcing them to rely on outdated medical practices, inevitably costing lives.
- Academies: colleges and universities in developing countries face even tougher challenges in trying to acquire the latest scholarly research than their American and European counterparts and often suffer from anemic library budgets. Opening access in the United States will greatly increase the information available to these students and significantly improve the quality of education available to millions of people in the process.
- Increased visibility, utility, and impact: opening access to the articles within a journal lead them to be cited more often, raising the visibility and impact of the journal accordingly. After making their articles freely available, many publishers have seen an increase in revenue as a direct result.