University Research: If You Believe In Openness, Stand Up For It

Erin McKiernan | The Guardian | August 22, 2014

Publishing openly provides greater exposure, boosts prospects and can lead to more citations, says Erin McKiernan

We spend years teaching our children to share. Yet from the moment students enter academia, we discourage it. Lock up your work in prestigious subscription journals; keep your data close to your chest; compete instead of collaborate – these are the messages transmitted by peers and mentors. These are the tenets of our unhealthy academic culture. We need to change our priorities.

Every day we make amazing discoveries, some of which could even save lives. Then we lock that information in journals that most of the population cannot read. In many parts of the world, access to subscription journals is just too expensive.

The amount some US or UK universities pay a single publisher in a year equals a large percentage of the annual budget of research institutions in less developed countries (over 10% for some Latin American institutions). The cost of an electronic subscription to a single high-profile journal can be as much as the annual salary of a researcher. Institutions in these countries often have to choose between conducting educational and research programmes, paying instructors and researchers, or paying publishers. Effectively, that means forgoing access...