Publication Liberation

Connor Emdin | The Varsity | August 25, 2012

...It’s this gluttonous consumption of information that struck me when I met a researcher from Zimbabwe at a training session for HIV researchers in Cape Town. He runs a clinical trial site that tests novel methods of preventing HIV transmission. Reviews of HIV and contraception are essential to providing the best clinical care to his trial participants. But because he is not associated with a wealthy university, he lacks a subscription to a journal database, and cannot afford to individually purchase articles.

This is just one example of how the traditional academic publishing model prevents researchers in developing nations from retrieving the information they need. It is also one of the primary reasons why open-access publishing has grown rapidly over the past ten years.

Open access publishers, such as The Public Library of Science and BioMed Central, publish peer-reviewed papers on the Internet, and don’t charge access fees. To minimize costs, they only produce electronic copies and charge authors to publish articles; typically this fee is covered by the department. But in return anyone from experienced researchers to curious high school students can immediately access the article. There are also benefits for the publishing author: articles published in open source journals tend to be cited more than those published in traditional journals, an important consideration for PhD students and assistant professors looking for tenure...