Update on open access: the door is still closed and we might have to sleep for 100 years

I was recently asked by a colleague, for whom I’d been buying a number of academic papers, whether I was seeing much progress with open access. The costs were mounting, as he’d asked for quite a few and academic papers average around $35 each these days.

Well, as you may know, if you’re a regular visitor, the Disruptive Searcher has blogged several times about the open access movement (click on “copyright” in the wordcloud to see past posts), the most recent being last year when the DS admits that she got rather optimistic about the Finch report’s recommendation that papers describing publicly funded research should be made available to read for free, see UK scientific research papers to be “open access”. I was hoping that something momentous was just around the corner. Ha! The naive fool.

Having been asked about the latest on open access I went in search of an update on the current situation as it does seem to have gone a bit quiet and my colleague isn’t the only one who’s been asking the question. Yup, it would seem that I was over-optimistic.

The Open Access Working Group provides useful information on the current state of play and, in a recent update-on-open-access post, outlines the current (lack of) progress, along with a humerous little table showing the vast profits that academic publishers are still enjoying in comparison with major companies in other sectors.

Aside from the somewhat ironic humour, it unfortunately seems that what I replied to my colleague summed up the current situation: “although there were signs of good progress last year, I think it’s going to be slow”.  I’m afraid that, having done a scout round to find out the latest news, free access to papers reporting publically funded research is not going to happen at all quickly.

Here’s a small tip. It’s always worth putting the title of an academic paper into a search engine and scanning down the results in case it pops up for free – this does happen from time to time.

It’s a bit like the final fairy in the old Ladybird version of Sleeping Beauty who said she couldn’t break the nasty fairy’s spell but “might be able to soften it a little”.
You what? I hear you cry.

OK, so that was Triple RM (Really Rather Random Musing). But it is a bit like that, and I also wish we’d kept the books from the series that I read as a small child as the illustrations were lovely and they’re really quite collectors’ items now!


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