It happens often. You are searching for the latest research on your topic of interest, you come across the perfect article to expand your knowledge of this topic but then – BAM! You hit the paywall. Access to scholarly articles is a huge issue for students. This is due to the simple fact that many institutions cannot afford the exorbitant prices of academic journals. It’s not only students that experience barriers to accessing the latest research though. Approximately 40% of researchers do not have access to the articles they need (Research Information Network, 2009).
The issue goes beyond the academic realm with doctors and mental health professionals, patients, policy-makers, journalists, and educators among just some of the groups who are encounter problems when trying to access the latest in research. This can lead to practice lagging behind the results of research, misinformed articles in the media and patients not being able to learn about the evidence related to the treatments they are undergoing.
There is a solution to this problem, one that EFPSA has supported officially for over 2 years, the Open Access model. This Open Access model involves the free, immediate, online access to full-text scholarly articles, and usually also the right to use and re-use those articles as necessary. For an introduction to the model see these previous JEPS Bulletin posts.
Since we are in the middle of Open Access Week, we would like to highlight EFPSA’s support of OA and some particularly interesting recent initiatives. In recognition of EFPSA’s support of OA, EFPSA is a member of the Right to Research Coalition. The R2RC was founded by students in the summer of 2009 to promote the open access model. It is grounded on the belief that no student should be denied access to the articles they need because their institution cannot afford the often high cost of access. Since its launch, the Coalition has grown to represent nearly 7 million students internationally and counts among its members some of the largest student organisations in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. Their work is centred on two major program areas:
- To advocate for policies at the university and national level that promote Open Access by req uiring that research results be made freely available in a timely manner;
- To educate the next generation of scholars and researchers about Open Access so open publishing becomes the new norm.
The Coalition is comprised of a diverse mix of local, national, and international student organisations. Organisations range in size from less than a hundred students to more than a million, have widely varying missions. They operate in very different areas geographically and the one thing they all have in common is a commitment to students’ ability to access the academic resources upon which their educations depend. EFPSA is currently the only psychology students organisation which is a part of the coalition. For a timeline of EFPSA’s involvement in the Open Access movement, see here.
Recently, EFPSA was represented at the 2nd General Assembly of the R2RC in Budapest by Chris Noone, Marcel Zwyssig (members of the Social Impact Task Force), and Irina Buiriana (member of the EFPSA Trainers Pool).There we discussed the current state of Open Access and ways in which student organisations can act to advocate for Open Access. We learned that OA is in a quite positive state – currently there are more than 10,000 journals following an OA model (Lewis, 2012; the inevitability of Open Access), more and more publishers are adding OA journals to their portfolio, there are over 2000 new repositories and there are over 170 institutional mandates. Additionally, international news outlets such as theGuardian and the Economist have given OA significant coverage.
With such encouraging developments in the OA movement, it is important for student organisations like EFPSA to capitalise on this positivity and push for OA. There are some fantastic recent examples of work by students organisations with the aim of supporting OA. The R2RC itself has done significant promotional work with the likes of Jake Andrade and PHD comics. The organisation has continued its federal and state advocacy in the United States with positive results including a U.S. White House directive and the FASTR bill and bills introduced in New York, Illinois and California. It has also supported students at the University of Nairobi where librarians wanted to pass an OA policy for a long time, but hadn’t succeeded. When students there got involved and raised interest, together the librarians and students were able to pass an OA mandate. Students similarly successfully campaigned for OA mandates at the University of Colorado and the University of California, Davis. In addition, a student letter written by NAGPS, PIRG & SPARC (parent organisation of R2RC) submitted on a bill in the U.S. state of North Dakota helped get it passed.
European student organisations have also been developing creative campaigns to raise awareness of OA. SAIH, the Norwegian Students’ and Academics; International Assistance Fund, have recently launched a humorous campaign focusing on educating the public about OA and highlighting how this is linked to international development. SAIH is a student –led organisation which aims to address challenges faced by people in the South, as well as structures and actions in the North which create and reproduce an unjust world. SAIH focuses on education in development cooperation, as well as North/South information and political advocacy in Norway.
Another interesting project has been developed by members of MEDSIN-UK, a student’s organisation dedicated to tackling global health inequity. David Carrol and Joseph McArthur have developed the Open Access Button project and recently presented the project at the R2RC GA. They are medical and pharmacology students at Queen’s University Belfast and University College London respectively. The OA Button is about capturing these individual moments when people hit paywalls and are denied access and presenting it in a captivating, meaningful and thoughtful way. The intention of the OA Button is to generate data, provide access and create a platform for further innovation. It is a browser-based tool which tracks how often people are denied access to academic research. The tool also knows where in the world they are, their discipline and why they were looking for that research. The tool combines this information into one place and creates a real time, worldwide, interactive map of the problem. The integration of social media allows us to make this problem visible to the world. We also help the person gain access to the paper they’ve been denied access to in the first place. Together this creates a really powerful tool. Here’s how it works:
- You come across an article that has a paywall.
- Don’t worry, just click the Open Access Button – a bookmarklet that you put in your browser.
- A dialogue box pops up with the article’s info. Fill in your name, etc. to report the paywall and hit the button.
- The button records this information, pins the paywall hit to a map and sends you to Google Scholar to find a version of the article that is OA (if it exists).
The launch of the Open Access Button Beta will be at the conference celebrating the anniversary of the Berlin Declaration. On Monday the 18th November at the Student and Early Researcher Preconference, the Open Access Button will be released to the public. Registration is still openfor this conference with some travel support available for participants. We’d love to see some psychology students attending.
EFPSA is proud to support our partners in the Right to Research Coalition and the innovative campaigns they produce, such as those described above. With persistence, creativity and optimism, we can make Open Access the status quo in the future.
Lewis, D. W. (2012). The Inevitability of Open Access. College & Research Libraries, 73.