Will Open Access Journals survive?


This is my third blog post and its about open access journals.

When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in India, I remember how passionately I would look for the latest research being carried out and then when I tried to read them up online, I would be stuck on Sciencedirect asking me to pay 25$ sometimes more, which is about 1750 Indian Rupees, that was almost 10 times my weekly allowance. When I would ask my librarian for the papers, he would help me out but then, the clock would be ticking for more than a week. Getting access to the papers from reputed universities was a nightmare. I first came to know about open access journal when a Professor from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras gave a keynote address in my university about the resources online and I first heard about “Nature”. My penchant for science would drive to read the “sciency” things online and I would sift through the internet for more of such materials. I had not heard of the concept of open access journal until the end of my Junior year, however, once I knew about it, I knew I found something worth looking into.  Before I jump into analyzing a particular journal, I want to mention how and why I believe that research should me made open to everyone based on my experience.

A wise man once said, if you help another with money, it is partial help; if you help him with food, its again partial, however, if you help someone with knowledge, that is the best help you can do because knowledge will help one to walk on his own feet. I have never since found a saying so close in altruism and this is perhaps a reason why I am even in this class with a goal of spreading my learning to others a future Professor. Research is expensive and hence everyone wants to protect their data and findings which makes sense. However, sharing the gist of their research or papers should not be stopped. Knowledge is the only hope for a better world, but the capitalist society has put a huge price on education – a right to every single individual in this planet. It is not only our duty to learn what has been understood but also share what we understand, that is how this world will continue to evolve. Labeling knowledge with a price dehumanizes the art, it breaks away the connection between learning and the learner, there is a barrier when the learner extends his identity with what he wants to learn. When I wanted to understand why an ion plasma engine is better than the conventional one, I had a hard time looking for resources to get to the paper, which if had been open access, the answer would have been a click away. Several enthusiastic learners are spending so much time in searching for the right resources or simply give up because they do not have the resources – the sad reality is, such situations are only affecting our own society. Skilled and talented individuals are bereft of several opportunities because they are living in countries with bad economy and cannot afford a good education, but with the advent of digital age and “connecting the world”, why do we let money come in the way of learning? Maybe, because those who know business models recognize that learning is as important as water and so putting the price helps business grow?

In my case study, I have chosen the journal, “Journal Technische Mechanik”. This is a German journal published by Magdeburger Verein für Technische Mechanik e.V. and Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg. The journal publishes refereed original articles on Engineering  Mechanics . It provides a dais for researchers to present their work to universities and industry highlighting the practical applications of their results and findings. This journal publishes several articles on an annual basis starting from 1980. The quality of the articles are however not as high as those in reputed Journals, nevertheless, the journal does help researchers in providing a space to share their work. It surely comes in favor of the open access movement.

However, there is a caveat that I would like to point out that happens behind the stage. While there are several reputed open access journals, most of them are not very popular and hence, in order to compete with those that are not open-access, are willing to accept papers with compromised quality. This is a vicious cycle because open-access journals want to help researchers but are not able to compete with the mammoth market of the contrary. How will they survive? How do I trust an open-access journal? If I have the resources to access non open journal, why should I go for open-access journals that are not popular but might have some exemplary work?

Let me know what you think!


Category(s): Grad5104

13 Responses to Will Open Access Journals survive?

  1. Thanks for sharing your story about India. You’ve raised valid concerns about the longevity of the open access movement. After hearing the panel on Monday, I am more hopeful that the movement is gaining traction. It starts with schools and researchers taking a stand and pushing for open access. It may be slow but it seems like open access will be a bigger contender in the future.

    Sarah Baron says:

    I completely agree with your comment that “It is not only our duty to learn what has been understood but also share what we understand.” Not sharing our knowledge to as many people as possible seems a bit selfish and highly unproductive to the cause of spreading our knowledge, research, and findings.

    Jocelyn Hotter says:

    I personally never used academic journals before college, so I don’t have your point of view in which they’ve never not been ‘free’ to me. Your perspective is helpful in that I never knew that not everyone in the academic field did not have access to them. I took for granted that every college and university in the world had access to journals and databases, which I now know is not the case. I do agree open access journals should be the way of the future, though I don’t know if that will actually happen.

  2. I appreciate that you shared a personal story about your experiences. Sometimes we take for granted the resources that we are given so readily. I agree that it is difficult sometimes to trust open access journals, as like you said they are trying to compete with major journals and therefore sometimes might accept lower quality article for publication. I do think that we, as future academics, will have to be the driving force behind using open access journals more readily.

  3. The proverb you mentioned early on in your post really resonated with me. It reminds me of several other sayings that have helped guide my experience. “Teach a man to fish” suggests the same idea that instead of giving a man a fish and allowing him to eat for a day, give him a fishing rod and the knowledge he needs to catch fish and eat for a lifetime. The operative connector word there is ‘teach’. The transfer of knowledge is crucial in creating true equity on this planet. The other proverb relates to the symbolic nature of the candle. It likens knowledge to the flame and insists that by sharing my flame, or knowledge with you, by ‘lighting your candle’ so to speak, I do not lose my flame. It is almost like perpetual motion. Nothing is lost when I share my knowledge with another human, there is just more knowledge and more chance that that knowledge will be put to use making the world a better place.

  4. Your post brought a very good insight about the Open Access movement. To your final, I will answer that open access journals are destined to slowly disappear. I shared another aspect to the reason why I think they will not survive. So they charge relatively high fees for publication, which I view as strong impediment to publication and to the advancement of the Open Access movement as a whole. So yes, I truly believe that at this rate, open access journals will probably not survive.

  5. Excellent post! You mention that many open access journals may accept lower quality papers in order to remain competitive with non-open access journals. I wonder if that in and of itself is a vicious cycle, leading top scientists to avoid publishing in these journals because of their reputations, which in turn perpetuates the potential lower quality of papers. Would you consider publishing your work in this or a similar journal?

    Jenna Davis says:

    I love how you shared your first conversation about open access journals. I have to say, I had never heard of it until we did this blog post. It’s crazy how beneficial they are to researchers and so many of us had never been exposed to them. Like you mentioned, so many skilled and intellectual people aren’t able to do research because of the funds getting in the way. I enjoyed your post!

    aydakianmehr says:

    Thanks for your interesting post and also the personal experience which you included. you raised another point of view which was interesting to me. I was little skeptical about open access journal since they are so expensive for authors to publish their articles in those journals. However, from the readers point of view (especially those who are in countries which have limited access to all journals) open access journal is a valuable mean. However, I realize that the expenses of publishing open access journals should no be completely on author’s shoulders. Maybe by some justifications in expense provision open access journals can turn to an optimum mean.

  6. Thank you for sharing you story in India. I have to say that it is unfair for researchers who want to do research but do not have funds. I also agree that some articles published on open accessed journals are not reliable. Being a researcher ourselves, we need to put more efforts on getting real research done and publish some papers with good quality.

    Aanuoluwapo Ojelade says:

    Ha ha nice saying. We say it differently in my culture and it means almost the same thing. It’s cool to see how OA helped you during your undergraduate research. I have the same experience when I studied in Nigeria. I think a good way for OA to compete is to let people know this resource exists. I used OA but I don’t even know what OA means. Giving OA more awareness will put them at an edge with the other publishers.

  7. Well said! Your lines “A wise man once said, if you help another with money, it is partial help; if you help him with food, its again partial, however, if you help someone with knowledge, that is the best help you can do because knowledge will help one to walk on his own feet” are really thought-provoking. Although more and more open-access journals are coming up lately, I feel at the same time scientists are driven more and more in the direction of commercializing their ideas. This makes me wonder sometimes if this is a problem with the education system in itself and if we need to address this issue first to support “sharing knowledge”.

    Carlos Michelen says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I completely share your sentiment that science should be accessible. However, it is often a hypothetical consideration for me since I have been lucky to always had access to all the journals I needed (my undergrad university, my job, and now my graduate university all paid for access to these). I think this is why they get away with such ridiculous prices, they know that the institutions themselves are going to pay for it and not the individuals (a similar scenario to health care and insurance companies paying instead of individuals). But as your example shows, this leaves many people out and this is a huge problem (similar to not having health insurance and having to pay prices not meant for individuals).

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