Topic 5: Open Access – Free for All?

Material that is freely available online, without financial, legal, or technical barriers.(Bailey, 2006). (1)

Figure 1. Definitions of Open Access and Paywall. Created via Canva.


Figure 2. Reviewing scholarly journal articles. Self-produced via Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Within today’s digital world, Open Access (OA) is being used more frequently as a business model for publishing peer-reviewed journals (Björk et al., 2016). According to Van Noorden (2013), a large proportion of academic journals are behind paywalls, which charge subscription fees for users to access the online material. Many educational institutions have advocated for OA due to the worrying trend of increasing subscription fees (Grove, 2015).


Although readers are not required to pay for OA articles, the authors, employers, or research facility has to cover the time, effort and money they have invested into research (Wexler, 2015). As a result, authors may be discouraged to continue opting for this route, affecting its sustainability. Furthermore, OA models monetise authors to distribute and publish more articles, which can influence the overall quality (Eve, 2013). This is a pivotal aspect to examine as quality OA journals do not yet have the same reputation as established traditional journals (Suber, 2010).

Figure 3. Examples of the disadvantages of OA. Created via PowToon.


Being able to access relevant journal articles is vital for one’s knowledge. For instance, academics can build upon previous studies to expand the research in that particular area (Gadd et al., 2014). Additionally, the global popularity of OA has allowed the academic publisher industry to thrive as researchers can heighten their profile through readership, downloads and citations, which results in enhancing their reputation (Gargouri et al., 2010). This can also lead to increased earnings from academic projects and talks (Crow, 2009).


Figure 4. Examples of OA advantages. Self-produced via Prezi.

Further Advantages of Open Access

Recently, more involvement of reading and commenting on working papers has been a rewarded activity; supporting the EU recommendations for an objective OA policy (Hoorn, 2014). Editors can be the first to read about new studies within their industry and therefore, if institutions reward the best reviewers with incentives, it will encourage more academics to provide quality scholarly journal submissions (Gasparyan et al., 2015).


Figure 5. Librarian’s role and process. Self-produced via Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Furthermore, it is important to note the strengths of libraries in the OA process. Librarians can develop advice services which support editors to: draw up a journal business plan, apply for funding, and assess which income models are compatible with OA (Keller, 2015). Thus, academics who are considering of publishing an OA journal can select their preferred process.


Despite significant sacrifices from the content producers, free access to academic journals has the potential to accelerate progress, which in turn, can lead to a collective benefit. After all, education is “a matter of sharing” (Wiley & Green, 2012).

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Bailey, C. W. (2006). What is Open Access? In Jacobs, Neil, Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Chandos Publishing (Oxford) Limited.

Björk, B. C., Shen, C., & Laakso. (2016). A longitudinal study of independent scholar-published open access journals. PeerJ, 4, e1990. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1990

Chase, D. (2016). Open Access publishing. Stony Brook University.

Crow, R. (2009). Income models for open access: An overview of current practice. Washington: SPARC.

Eve, M. P. (2013). Before the law: Open access, quality control and the future of peer review. In Vincent, N. and Wickham, C. (eds.) Debating Open Access (pp. 68-81). London, UK: British Academy.

Fang, H., & Hangsheng, J. (2014). Open access and document delivery services: A case study in Capital Normal University LibraryInterlending and Document Supply42(2), 79–82, doi: 10.1108/ILDS-01-2014-0003

Gadd, E., Oppenheim, C., & Probets, S. (2004). RoMEO Studies 3: How academics expect to use open-access research papers. Journal of Librarianship and Information. doi:

Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Larivière, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L., Brody, T., & Harnad, S. (2010). Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality ResearchPLOS ONE5(10), e13636. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013636

Gasparyan, A. Y., Gerasimov, A. N., Voronov, A. A., & Kitas, G. D. (2015). Rewarding peer reviewers: Maintaining the integrity of science communicationJournal of Korean Medical Science30(4), 360–364. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2015.30.4.360

Grove, J. (2015). Dutch universities and Elsevier reach deal over open accessTimes Higher Education.

Hoorn, E. (2014). Diamond open access and open peer review: An analysis of the role of copyright and librarians in the support of a shift towards open access in the legal domainEuropean Journal of Current Legal Issues20(1), Web JCLI.

Keller, A. (2015). Library support for open access journal publishing: A needs analysisInsights, 28(3), 19–31. doi:

Suber, P. (2010). Open accessThe MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series.

Tennant, J. P., Waldner, F., Jacques, D. C., Masuzzo, P., Collister, L. B., Hartgerink, C. H. J. (2016). The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: An evidence-based review. F1000Research, 5, 632. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8460.1

Van Noorden, R. (2013). Open access: The true cost of science publishingNature495, 426–429. doi:10.1038/495426a

Wexler, E. (2015). What Open-Access publishing actually costs. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wiley, D., & Green, C. (2012). Chapter 6: Why openness in education? In Oblinger (Ed.), Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies (pp. 81-89). Educause.

Figure References

Figure 1. Self-produced from Canva.

Figure 2. Self-produced from Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Figure 3. Self-produced from PowToon.

Figure 4. Self-produced from Prezi.

Figure 5. Self-produced from Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Featured Image. Open book. Retrieved from Flickr.


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