Arguments Against Open Access

Free articles for everybody sounds too good to be true, right? Across the board, people have been raising arguments about the implementation of Open Access in the UK. Below are three short arguments against Open Access. Key figures in the argument against OA include Peter Mandler, John Holmwood, Jeffrey Beall and Robin Osborne, among many others.

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1. Information can be confusing, misleading and sometimes dangerous
This doesn’t necessarily apply to humanities journals, but certainly scientific research can be misleading if you don’t understand the facts presented in the paper. Although publically funded by the taxpayer, scientific research papers are not written in layman’s terms for the public to understand – they can be over 30,000 words, full of diagrams, facts and latin names. If read incorrectly, it is argued that the public could create widespread panic over a small issue that wouldn’t case a problem to a scientific audience. A similar argument in this vein is that academic journals are niche and somewhat boring to someone without a key interest. If the public isn’t already paying to access the journal, chances are that they wouldn’t bother to read it if it becomes freely available.

2. Journal costs isn’t the problem, low library funding is!
Some of the key arguments for OA are based around the price of academic papers, or the paywalls (journals) they are put behind. When using this argument, extreme cases are used as an example, when this is not the case for all journals. When arguing that libraries are unable to afford so many journal subscriptions, those against OA tend to argue that library funding should be increased instead. That way, those who want to access the journals, can do so at no extra cost to themselves.

3. Open Access doesn’t answer these problems 
Although OA offers free access for the public, it isn’t free to run. Green Open Access calls for the use of repositories, which would drain on the university budget. Libraries would need to keep subscriptions to journals open, otherwise all journals would eventually close and the supply of journal articles would dry up. The OA solution to this is Gold Open Access – which moves the cost away from reader to writer. This is great, if you can afford to pay for your research papers to be published, but not if you’re a junior academic who can barely afford to eat.

For further reading, this article by Daniel Allington addresses these arguments in greater detail.

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