Topic 5: Open Access Content


Nature, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine. These journals are big names in the field of medical research; in 2014 Nature had an impact factor of 42.3, the highest of any medical journal. However, the price of access to journals such as these is growing; prices have increased greater than inflation by 250% over the past 30 years. Access to medical research by different individuals is vital to prompt different hypotheses and further research. But if people can’t access this information, how can this occur? Scientists and physicians spend quite literally years of their life making important discoveries, but surely all this is in vane if only a privileged few get to read their work?

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Rising journal subscription charges are a major barrier to advancing scientific research

Open access content is entirely free to access and their material is free to re-use. Open Access Journals (OAJs) allow the dissemination of knowledge and scientific discovery worldwide. This is of particular benefit in third world countries that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford paywall fees and in which infectious diseases are rife. Unlike OAJs, resources which are not free to access are a barrier to this as Dr. Stephen Lawn, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explains in this video:

Stephen also goes on to say:

“My goal as a researcher is to generate new knowledge and for that to be disseminated for the global good”

Clearly, the unrestricted access of information through OAJs would help to fulfil this aim. His views also reminded me of the digital divide I outlined in Topic 4, where I outlined the considerable barrier the digital divide poses to education in poorer countries. If such countries had both online access and free access to information through OAJs this would undoubtedly allow important health advancements in these countries. Although I linked this video on a comment last week, I feel it clearly highlights how freely available online materials can also benefit education in these countries:

Open access resources also clearly increase the readership of an author’s work, increasing their personal exposure and providing them with appropriate recognition. As I learnt in Topic 3 building your own personal brand is vital and open access resources allow authors of scientific content or otherwise to  gain exposure and further their careers.

Furthermore, content or information with a high price tag, doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. Bjork and Solomon (2012) found that OAJs are approaching the same scientific impact and quality as top subscription journals; dispelling this myth and highlighting the growing power of open access information to authors and the readership alike.

However, freely available online content does have some disadvantages. Open Access content does incur some cost (e.g. for online hosting) and often it is the responsibility of the author to cover these costs, discouraging authors from publishing open access content. Open access journals also may be encouraged to publish more if their only revenue purely consisted of publication fees and this can have an impact on the quality of information published. Also whether open access models can appropriately sustain the research publication infrastructure long term is not yet known.

Open access platforms are growing and it is the rising prices of paid-access resources that is helping to fuel this. Open access content has numerous benefits for authors, as well as their readership – I know I benefit daily through open access education. However, the explosive growth of open access content has raised concerns about its long term sustainability and content quality control. Nevertheless, I believe the benefits of open access content outweigh the disadvantages and its use should be encouraged.


Nature, 2016. About the Journal. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Bosch S, Henderson K, 2012. Coping With The Terrible Twins Library periodicals pricing survey. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Gonzalez R, 2011. Why does it cost $20,000 a year to subscribe to a science journal? Available at: [Access 7 May 2016].

Geib A, 2013. Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access. Edanz. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Bjork B, Solomon D. (2012) Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact. BMC Medicine, 10(73). Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Video and Images

I support Open Access Image: Lowe R, 2016. The way we publish in Journals is Changing. Physiospot. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016]

Journal Video: BMC Medicine, 2013. BMC Medicine – Editorial Board Members discuss Open Access publishing. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

What is the Problem? Image: University of Idaho Library. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Bill Gates Video: The Verge, 2015. Bill Gates: How online courses can radically improve education by 2030. Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2016].





4 thoughts on “Topic 5: Open Access Content

  1. Hi Richard,

    I enjoyed your post this week, I can clearly see you feel strongly for the OA. I also think the way you’ve embedded your video into the post is really clever, I didn’t know you could make it stop and start at just the relevant parts!
    I think the video you used was very interesting. It’s crazy to think someone who strived to publish research data couldn’t even access his own article in a different country (where it was obviously sorely needed).
    I was wondering if you knew about green and gold open access journals/repositories? This article ( discusses it in detail. For example, Gold OA work are publishers like PLoS Medicine, and they charge the author’s institution or funding body for an article processing charge. These are some of the models used in OA. This article ( also examines the rise of OA and the implicated costs, as you mentioned in your post.



  2. Hello Richard,

    I found your post really interesting. I liked that you primarily focus on Health and Education to explain the tremendous effects that Open Access can have on a society. I also like the fact that you specially highlight the important impacts of Open Access for developing countries. I agree with your point of view. I structured my blog post in a similar way to yours by stating the advantages and disadvantages of open access and by concluding that in overall the benefits of OA really outweighs its disadvantages.However, if OA was implemented, how do you think that the disadvantages linked to that practice could be overcome? Do you share the view of Martin Paul Eve in his article ” Is Open Access “a solution without a problem” for the Humanities”, and believe that the problems due to OA can be easily overcome?


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