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!