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January 19, 2021

Science Cast

Bridging the gap between Scientists and the Public

The Open Access Dilemma

4 min read

As Open Access takes flight after European funders demanded that research papers they have funded to be made public, the perfect model for open access of research articles hasn’t been found yet…At least according to me.

Research had driven economy in a very robust way and still remains the most promising way to move forward. Countries that support research do well as compares to countries that ignore it. African countries are notorious for the latter.

In the past, Research papers were published just like newspapers making people who can afford subscription fees to become richer in education to. Sharing of research papers is one of the main things that drove invention of the internet. Journals became digital but the information did not become free. People still paid to get knowledge.

Looking at access to knowledge has brought about the greatest inventions and advance in technology, Open access campaigns but results weren’t as fast. People were still in need of research everyday.

Groups emerged where researchers could share papers amongst themselves for free. Then Social media came where emails are becoming a less irrelevant way of requesting and being sent articles. A lady from Europe came up with a way to make this easier by creating an online repository called sci-hub. Researchers and students who had access to papers through subscription from universities also started using it. Was it the interface that was easier to use or the ease of getting any paper with a click in just one place? I am not sure.

Companies like elsevier started fighting with the poor girl who seemed to be celebrated by most scientists over the internet but to protect their career, they would pretend they do not use it yet traffic at sci-hub is never decreasing. Now, the open access activists who do not publicly smile at her work to avoid burning bridges they have been trying to creating with paywalled journals have suggested a model where scientists pay to publish so as to keep the journals running.

Looking at the fee required, everyone says that the funder is the one to be obliged to pay for publishing fees which are also high. 3rd world countries were told that they could recieve a waiver but can this apply zo every researcher.

The Dilemma

Publishing on a PayWall Journal is free. Since it is a company, they are serious with marketing the paper to gain traffic in return for money from subscriptions. The author who published the work for free has better citations and ease to get funding for another research project. If someone contacts them for a copy of their paper which they might not have copy, they do everything to get it and get cited. Authors don’t care about the subscription fees. They only care about their H-Index. Publishers like Elsevier do not care about inventions and what the results from the paper can help people, they care about good papers that can fetch money. It is a business. A good one for that matter. If your work you want published is not a good product to invest in a bring in money then you get a reject despite all the hardwork. How stressful is that?

An open access journal like PLOS cares about the money you give them to publish your work. They do not care about how good the work is or care about marketing the article to get citations. As much as it is open access and funded, the material is not properly made known to readers. The good thing is if you need something from an article published on their site, you can freely get it which is important. Funny thing is, even the open access journals are also downloaded on sci-hub. So whats the issue here?

If you ask me, Sci-hub has revolutionalized research yet the did not do any marketing. Products that sell through recommendations are the greatest inventions. It is run by one person, publicly funded and yet widely used. Problem is, paywalled publishers are not very happy about the methods used to get ‘their’ articles/income. Universities are backing away from paying for subscriptions which is a major contributor of high university fees.

So what can we borrow from sci-hub?

We need one Repository of all the research work done and its papers with an easy interface.

In that repository, We need a team of people who help in promoting the research work published.

We need to create a system where the public directly fund projects and directly fund such a repository.

Education should be free all over the world. Innovations and Technology made from education should be the ones producing the money.

Open access is the Future

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