As I was preparing Part 2 of Mob Rule, Mob Rules I was reminded of the enormous amount of paywalls preventing an average citizen from conducting research without having to pay either per article ($30-$170) or for the journal ($100 to ?).
Paywall’s are nothing new and have been an issue that public and private researchers have been trying to address over the years. But it had me wondering, who controls the flow of information? And why? How can a free and open society continue to thrive if information is guarded by higher education, companies, and governments from the public? Of course, while I understand the desire to make money, it is also rare for the actual researchers involved to directly to pocket money from their publications.
In a discussion with a professor of mine years ago we discussed the history of Universities, especially top-tier Universities, having long been gate keepers of information and they continue to seek relevancy while competing with private companies and non-profits over research and development. Today it is cyber security along with the fields of mathematics, quantum computing, and evolutionary studies across multiple fields that are the profit-makers, the mainstream courses and, sought after research by institutions of higher education.
There is a great deal of information on this topic. From The Atlantic, Why Isn’t Academic Research Free to Everyone?, a short interview with Martin Paul Eve, a lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s School of English & Journalism and author of Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies And The Future (2014) is a simple place to start. Another small article from Scientific America, Scientific Research Shouldn’t Sit behind a Paywall. And if you are looking for an intelligent, history lesson on the subject of Journals and Paywalls I recommend reading Priceonomics article, Why is Science Behind a Paywall?. Finally, WIRED released, The Quest to Topple Science-Stymying Academic Paywalls.
Reported in 2019 and again in 2020, the Trump Administration has even considered opening up research for general access without cost.
One hesitation that I have concerning Open Source and Open Access is the mirage of “free services” that come with it. Yes, these are publicly funded research paper, but not all research is publicly funded. Even if publicly funded, not all research should be conducted under tax payer dollars; I imagine there is wasteful research though likely subjective from a scientific vs a political view. Also there is the question of who owns the research and do they have a right to decide its use?
As the material world becomes more present and away from enteral things, a spirit of socialism blows in the wind. Demands for free access flow out from the idea that we all can have free education, free information, free healthcare, etc. Well, no, either the taxpayers pay for it or a large sum is payed by corporations through their own means and provisions to their employees. As of now, taxpayers are footed the bill regardless.
Please do not misunderstand I do not object to open access. It is good. But I am weary of a society that demands for more without asking what is required of them.
Perhaps I am missing the point? Leave your comments below.