Chelsea - Stamford Bridge

Chelsea - Stamford Bridge

Sunday, May 4, 2014

#UOSM2008 Topic 5: Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access to Online Materials

Note: This post covers only the research archives as an example of content provider (because of the word limit). However, most of the pros and cons mentioned can be applied to other media types as well.
We, students and academics, all had that moment when you search in Google on a specific topic, and the search engine returns you an article with quite an interesting abstract, and you think that:” Here is the one!!”. However, when you press the link it requires you to sign up and perform an online payment, and all your plans for going sleep earlier tonight just ruin and you need to start the search over again (as happened during my search for the current topic, see Picture 1). The dilemma of whether to make the access to online materials open or closed nowadays have become a significant issue, which increases as the Internet expands. According to the study by Simon-Kucher & Partners, 90% of online content will be held behind paywalls (Lepitak, 2013), and subsequently a question arises whether should the content producers make their content freely available? Below I will provide both advantages and disadvantage of the given issue:
Picture 1.
Note: “Open Access” (OA) is a term referred to articles without any restrictions posed by subscriptions (Bo-Christer et al., 2010).
  • First and most important one, open access definitely will lower the transaction costs throughout the process (both publishers, libraries and readers) (Bo-Christer, 2004).
  • Availability of articles everywhere and to everyone, just have the Internet connection (Judy et al., 2003).
  • Authors, who are happy with open access for their articles get benefits, such as wider dissemination, higher citation, etc. (C. Prosser, 2003).
  • This can encourage people for independent learning/researching (Judy et al., 2003).
  • Last but not least, OA can increase “cross-discipline fertilization” of an article (Eysenbach, 2006), which basically refers to the citations of articles to each-other, but not just in the same disciple that they are.

  • Open Access journals are rarely indexed in in commercial indexing services, which universities provide for searching quality-assured publications (Bo-Christer, 2004).
  • A journal becomes split in different conditions, in different access point, which makes life a bit harder (C. Prosser, 2003).
  • Access to required hardware (Judy et al., 2003). Let’s be honest, not everyone nowadays has a laptop, PC or printers, and what is more important, reading-friendly devices, such as tablets and readers.
  • Both libraries and authors will get an initial shortfall of revenue, as the number of subscribers will drop dramatically (C. Prosser, 2003).
  • Information can vary in sources, as there is no centralised repository (Judy et al., 2003). Nowadays there are hundreds of websites that provide access to online articles and journals, such as ACM and IEEE libraries.

Believe me, I could continue the list if I had enough word count (please follow the links in “References”).

What do I personally think? Obviously as a student I support the idea of the Open Access for everyone and everywhere, as the world of education can’t improve without open access resources. On the other hand, however, as a person I strongly believe that academics and researchers do have their rights to put a price on their works, especially for those which took them a lot of time to create. Because of this dilemma I have faced with I will not give a small conclusion for the current post (as I usually do), as I have some doubts in myself.  I hope my classmates’ posts and comments will clarify my opinion till the “Reflection Summary” post.

Apologies for a bit longer post this time. Just wanted to make it special.


  • Bo-Christer, B., 2004. Open access to scientific publications - an analysis of the barriers to change? IR Information Research, 9(2), pp.170-91.
  • Bo-Christer, B. et al., 2010. Open Access to the Scientific Journal Literature: Situation 2009. PLoS ONE , 5(6), pp.1-9.
  • C. Prosser, D., 2003. From here to there: a proposed mechanism for transforming journals from closed to open access. Learned Publishing, 16(3), pp.163-66.
  • Eysenbach, G., 2006. The Open Access Advantages. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8(2).
  • Judy, M., Carol, J. & Peter, C., 2003. Web based learning. ABC of learning and teaching, 326(7394), pp.870-73. 
  • Lepitak, S., 2013. 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2014].


  1. This is a comment send by Caroline Wardle, Lisa, which wasn't posted due to my technical problems. I'm very sorry for that :(

    Hi Eldar,

    Great blog post that clearly identifies the issues and benefits surrounding making content freely available online!

    I agree with your point about the benefits of the widely available nature open access materials, particularly in the spread of knowledge and information, and the ability to continue building upon previous works within institutions.

    However, one of the major problems I see in this is that, realistically, these journals are not actually ‘free’ at all?

    The rights to access are simply bought by institutions for the benefit of members?

    1. Hi Caroline,

      And sorry for provided technical delays. I'm happy that you liked the post. Yup totally agreed, I also personally think that this kind of of resource archives are like bricks in building our new educated world.
      Will be honest Caroline, I didn't even think about it, but yes you are completely right. I'm not sure whether you know or not, but Our University pays for the online libraries such as IEEE and ACM... and even you are able to get in there, and open your existing account provided by the University...
      So, yes, that is quite weird, unfortunately. However, do you see that we come here to another point, ok lets imagine that university pays for us to ACM and IEEE, but there are hundreds and thousands of this kind of libraries in the Internet, obviously for which Uni doesn't pay. THis problem goes in terms of Uncentralized content which is published nowadays, it was also mentioned in my blog as well

      Regards, Eldar

  2. Hey Eldar,

    Great post as per!

    I think you are very right to focus on one particular part of open access (research archives) rather than trying to cover all different types of content producers. Upon reflection this is maybe something I should have considered!

    A great fact find, that 90% of content is held behind pay walls, I thought the percentage was big but not quite that big.

    From reading your advantages I think it’s key that the long-term considerations of people not having access to the knowledge must be considered. Personally every time I come across an article that I cannot access instantly, I have a negative view of that topic, and I’m less likely to Google it in the future!

    In this article,
    the author talks about how she should have the right to the knowledge of why she is being prescribed certain drugs for different conditions.

    Do you think it is reasonable that she should have access or maybe she is the 1% who wants to look up the research behind the drug and therefore it is not financially viable for her to have access?

    With regards to your conclusion, I think your right especially as its quite difficult to put yourself into an academics shoes on this particular issue, not knowing what they do and do not get paid for, (maybe not enough given the recent strikes!) it’s a difficult one to form an opinion on.

    1. Hey Tim,

      Hope You have enjoyed it. Yes, I had to do something like that because of the world limit.
      This statistics is provided in the course material, in case you want to find it :)
      Yes, mate. That was the main reason why I'm still confused here, because I think by asking our right (as students), we inevitably valuate the right of the authors, or may be not :) who knows.
      Back to your question, I've read the article... I actually it goes back to the same story... Yes, she is right because the normal ordinary citizen is restricted in rights of seeing this kind of articles, even we, students, are allowed to see more than older generation, thanks to our Universities. However, we have to agree with her and say that she has the right to know what stands behind the prescriptions written for her. And moreover, she is quite right to say that most of the research investigations are conducted thanks to the funding coming from taxes, charities and university internal money, which comes from tuition fees.

      But still, this is still just my opinion :)

      Thanks a lot for commenting, mate.

  3. Hi Eldar,

    Great post you wrote, I especially liked the introduction with a typical situation during finding the material - happens to me all the time :/ And disadvantages of open access are well written as well. The only thing I think is irrelevant is the third point - that not everybody has pc or laptop. I think it's the opposite - it's difficult to find a family without a computer nowadays, it could be that some elder people might not know how to operate with material only available online, but I guess that's a different thing...

    Anyway, just wanted to ask you, what do you think about piracy of academical research materials? You know, when material, which author intended to sell is distributed by other people for free.


    1. Hi there Vlad,

      Thanks a lot for your comment, mate, my pleasure to read your comment on my post. And I'm happy that you agree with my viewpoint. Yes you are quite right in your point, as a lot of people nowadays have at least any kind of device which can be connected to the Internet. However, at the same time I think I should better clarify my point and say that my disadvantage bulletpoint was due to the statistics which says that by the end of 2013, on 40% ( of the world population was online, so it is not every singe person.
      Quite a good question my friend, never came across it in our classmates posts. Again, a bit of double thought on your question. From one side, as a student I do like it because I always try to search for an article which has to be paid on one website, might be for free on another one. However, a clever part of me, understands that it completely out of law, and violates various copyright and basic human rights of any person who is under it. So yes, I have to agree that it is quite not a good idea :)

      Thanks a lot for your comment ones again :)

      Best Regards, Eldar

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