Open access barriers

Richard Poynder discusses how Open Access policies may be perversely costing universities even more money, in the lead-in to an interview about the Wellcome Trust’s support of open access publication: “The Open Access Interviews: Wellcome Trusts Robert Kiley”.

If institutions now start to cancel their OA membership schemes (which some believe provide pretty poor value anyway), the question inevitably arises: in light of the continuing financial squeeze, who on earth is going to pay for the dramatic growth of Open Access as some characterise it?

I continue to maintain that price to the reader is only one barrier to accessibility.

Many open access journals now fund their activities with upfront author fees, which are exorbitant to any author not on federal grant money. I’m not questioning that those journals use the money – they’ve obviously been spending it. But it obviously can be done for much less, as some open access journals have no author fees at all.

Many journals wrap their content in scripts and presentation – often for the purpose of guiding readers to premium content – provide content that is not easily read on multiple devices and put multiple clicks between a search and results.

Barriers to readability and comprehension are more important than barriers to access. Most of the research being published each year is a giant slush pile, from which postdocs use search engines to pick out small nuggets of utility.