Enunciation on Open Access: The practitioners’ perspective

A continually  growing body of student organizations, as well as scientists, have been advocating for an Open Access to scientific publications. The European Federation of Psychology Students Associations (EFPSA) has been part of this effort for a long time and this blog hosts an extensive cover of the numerous aspects of the Open Access initiative. Checking the Open Access tag, here at the bulletin, will give you a comprehensive list of the already covered topics by the JEPS editors and their associates.

To begin, in working for advocating and raising awareness, the collaboration of many organizations and institutions has already produced results and we have seen governmental and intergovernmental bodies already taking steps to favour open publication policies. For instance, the United Kingdom’s Research Councils’ policy on Open Access and EU Commission’s inclusion of Open Access as a general principle in the Horizon 2020 projects are high level decisions that will ensure extended access to scientific knowledge and awareness of the issues amongst researchers.

Psychology students, after the end of their studies, have numerous options for continuing their careers: continuing in academia, working as practitioners of psychology, or choosing other fields. The first group can get access to scientific publications from their universities’ subscriptions. The last group’s access to scientific work might not be essential, depending on their new work field. Howbeit, the second group is left with the infeasible task of applying evidence-based interventions, without direct access to the evidence.

Delineating the circumstances of the practitioner is dismally quite simple. If one practices psychology at a university, you get an access  which is institutionally bought and granted. Alternatively, If one practices in a large hospital, a prison, or a larger company, you might gain access through the establishment’s subscription to either the journals or the national research networks. You might, depending on your institution and the resources the national research network provides.

Nonetheless, if you are a psychologist working in a private practice then you are bereft of support and dealing with a prized subscription fees or costly fee charged on the basis of each article viewed.

Notably though, a number of psychologists’ associations attempt to deal with this issue by providing limited subscriptions to their members, mostly for journals published by themselves. But, the reality is that not all practitioners are members of professional bodies. Therefore, this issue becomes minor when discussing OA – they should be members, not only because of journal access. Withal, an exceeding problem is that getting access to associations’ journals is candidly not enough – even if the associations are the powerful and in the big league BPS (British Psychological Society) or the APA (American Psychological Association).

Thus, I tried to address practitioners and discussed their experiences and thoughts. From the colleagues I collogued with, they all agreed that this indeed was an issue requiring attention. I’d like to now open this in front of my readers, in particularly, the ones who disagree with us Interestingly, some said that access to more journals would be better, but as is, they’re compensating by participating in congresses and by having a subscription to one or two journals that focus primarily on their specific  areas of interest.

While I am not altercating against the importance of participating in congresses and training workshops throughout our careers, the suggestion that someone is updated with one or two subscriptions is just ludicrous. Neither, am I acclaiming  that everyone should have a Google Scholar Alert giving them notifications for every single mention on their issues of interest (though, maybe I am). However, anyone considerably familiar with the publishing practices of scientists is aware that  one cannot trust one journal for the updates on a topic, because a paper could potentially be published in a different journal merely because the author managed to publish it there.

Trying to investigate what practitioners in other fields with similar needs and perhaps, more experience in the evidence-based concept, are doing, I detected that physicians and pharmacists in private practices are kept updated by conferences and, mostly, by medical representatives. Be that as it may, I am very tempted to discuss the ethical issues that arise from getting your scientific updates from a person who is trying to sell something directly related to the research they are presenting. I believe it’s easily summed up by the words: conflict of interest.

Per Contra, I understand that this is an excursus those specialisations are having, and dealing with this kind of biases is being integrated in their academic training. It is crucial to remember that medical doctors and pharmacists also have to follow a number of protocols developed by people who do have access to research. Still, this is clearly not the case in psychology where detailed step-by-step protocols are not part of the way we work.

It is essential for associations, like EFPSA and the equivalent student associations from other fields who might deal with similar issues, to add the practitioners’ perspectives in the Open Access discussion. It’s essential not to give the impression that Open Access is just possibly about maximizing our ability to educate but is also addressing a real public health issue.

Ideally, the professional organizations would be the leader in these digressions. However, when the national and international organizations who represent psychologists, have strong financial interests in keeping the journals they publish in subscription models, then the expectations of active, constructive and, essentially, unbiased participation in the discussion is ought to be kept low. We need to confabulate how we’re allowed the conflict of interests to affect our organisations’ position. However, the Open Access discussion is happening and it will not wait for us to solve internal issues. It seems like, at the moment, the advantage of private practice practitioners can mostly efficiently and uniquely be promoted by the student bodies.

This excursion isn’t just one to have externally, with the decision makers and our partners. Student bodies have the ability to educate students, the soon-to-be professionals. It is constitutive to dwell on students who do not plan to continue with a research or an academic career, these are also impacted by this issue. We cannot afford applied psychology students realizing this situation only when they notice that the article they desperately need does not have the “free for you” link anymore, because the ”you” doesn’t make room for them or, in essence, their clients.

Hence, It comes down to the question of how important is it for the practitioner to have access to these publications. I suppose that if we assume that reading books can be enough then it is not really of high importance. In spite of this, books are based on much older than the latest publications and that one still has the problem of not being able to check the sources of the book; therefore, this cannot be the best solution.

Assuredly then, It boils down to a question which requires a collective answering by us, as psychologists i.e. How important is it for practitioners of evidence-based techniques to have access to the actual evidence?

About the author

Dimitris Parperis Dimitris is a master student at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and has a degree in Psychology from the University of Cyprus. His main research interests focus on health, social, and clinical questions around sexuality and gender issues. He has served EFPSA from a number of positions and is a former Vice-President of the organisation.