Open Access to Online Content

Open access is becoming more prevalent as our society becomes increasingly digitized. It seeks to return academic publishing to its original purpose of spreading knowledge and allow that knowledge to be built upon. 

I get frustrated when I find an academic article that sounds perfect for featuring in my university work, only to find out that I cannot afford to buy it; especially when there is no guarantee that the content will reflect the abstract and be relevant in my studies! However, I’ve never really considered why content producers choose to publish their findings through traditional journals rather than adopting the approach of open access.


Evidence has suggested that paid content is important as digitization grows, with 90% of online content expected to be behind paywalls in the next three years. However, there are significant advantages to content producers for publishing open access content. A study by Oxford University found that readership of articles increases 140% when they are openly accessible. This increased readership means that the producer’s work is downloaded and cited more frequently, reaching broader audiences.

Open access systems such as OER (Open Education Resources) benefit not only the students using the content but also the producer; their work is not only shared more through redistribution but it is also improved and built upon through revisions made.

An argument for content producers avoiding open access is the cost of publishing your own work. Publishing open access content is not yet cheaper than the traditional form is not yet cheaper than current costs of licences. However, countries such as Australia and the Netherlands are pushing funding for open access publishing. Of the $4.6 million of Australian open access funding provided so far, the project has yielded $25 million.

Open access journals do not yet have the same reputation as traditional journals, and authors are susceptible to predatory open access journals trying to mislead and cheat them. But did you know that there is no actual evidence that the traditional publishing model is optimal? The publishing monopoly created by this original model is becoming less powerful as digitization increases.

It has been argued that open access publishing is not sustainable. However, with emerging nations BRIC and MINT, surely open access for lower-income countries and smaller specialised organisations has benefits for both the content producer and user?

Despite its disadvantages, open access publishing can be incredibly beneficial for content producers and helps to return academic to its original purpose. What do you think?

Word Count: 408 words


PHD Comics (2012) Open Access Explained! [Accessed 03/05/2016]

The Right to Research Coalition (2010) Why Open Access? [Accessed 06/05/2016]

The Drum (2013) 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests [Accessed 03/05/2016]

Centre for American Progress (2012) Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER [Accessed 03/05/2016]

Edanz (2013) Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access [Accessed 06/05/2016]

University of Technology Eindhoven (2016) Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access [Accessed 05/05/2016]

Open Access Working Group (2012) Open Access: Not Just a Matter for Scientists [Accessed 06/05/2016]

Oxford Journals (2006) Assessing the Impact of Open Access [Accessed 05/05/2016]


Feature image via Pixabay

Video created using PowToon

Infographic created using Picktochart

OER and Open Access images via Pinterest

Slideshow created using Haiku Deck


10 thoughts on “Open Access to Online Content

  1. Hi Ellis,
    You make some great points in your post and in particular a quote taken from your haiku deck “education at its core is sharing” really brought the topic to life for me. Throughout my post I debated the advantages and disadvantages and explored the very nature of open access but in the process omitted the fact that in order to learn you need to be taught, something that the open access concept really makes possible wherever in the world you are.

    Although you mention that readership of articles increased by 140% under open access, do you believe this is a positive or negative point? I can see both arguments. In part I would suggest that arguments against relate to the marketing concept of branding where the higher price point of a product the more exclusive and high class it is considered. Perhaps academics and journals raise the price so much as they feel like giving work for free or at lower prices diminishes its value?


    • Hi Holly, thank you for the comment! I agree with you that academics could deem their work as being diminished if offered for free or at a lower price. However, as you mentioned and as is mentioned in my Haiku Deck, the essence of education is sharing; whilst nowadays we may look at a cheaper or free published work as of a lesser value, as technology develops and open access becomes more sustainable, this way of thinking will become archaic. You wouldn’t think of a piece of music as having a lesser value because it is free or at a cheaper price, would you? Thank you for your question, it’s really allowed me to engage further with this topic!


  2. Hey Ellis,
    Such an informative blog post this week with so much research into the topic! I really liked your presentation which made the pros and cons really clear! I too use open content a lot for my own research and I am grateful to the uni for subscribing on our behalf to access these texts. Particularly when it comes to niche topics or under-researched topics, the ability to add to existing research allows a wider audience and a further discussion and exploration of the subject topic. I think most people reference authors as a default and comments and expansions from other may also encourage the original author to release a second paper with amendments or after thoughts – increasing knowledge for our understanding. What do you think?
    Miss CEO.


    • Hi Miss Ceo. Firstly, thank you for your positive comments this week! I think that open access is great for developing ideas and furthering knowledge of a certain field. Especially for under-researched topics as you mentioned, open access can provide a breadth of resources at a reasonably low cost. If authors are happy to make amendments and republish their work because of comments and changes made through open access then great! Education is returning to its core of sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Ellis,

    I enjoyed your post and was particularly drawn to the part where you mentioned quite an interesting statistic. I had not known before that Open Access increases readership by 140%. Whilst an increase in readership can be assumed to lead to an increase in the dissemination of information – which is a positive effect, I wonder if the knock-on effects can be measured or at least approximated. Whilst Open Access articles reach a wider audience, it may not necessarily lead to things such as improved research within the field of the article as we cannot be sure that the wider audience that the article can now reach will actually do anything useful with the gained information. One would hope however, that it would have this effect. What are your thoughts?


    • Hello, firstly thank you for your positive comment and I’m glad you learned something from my post! I agree with you that whilst a broader audience is achieved through open access, this audience may not be appropriate or utilise the information effectively. I think that in order to combat this, we need more education about open access and how it works as a system. The Netherlands and Australia have put a lot of funding into colleges and universities to encourage them to use open access content, and also to review, edit and redistribute the content. Whilst open access works in theory, there still needs to be more education on its proper use in order for it to be sustainable and reach the right audiences, not just a broad readership.


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