I remember a time when library staff members used to complain about the exorbitant fees they were paying for journals. The open access movement started and for a while, it seemed like a dream that there could be academic journals that would provide their articles at no cost. There are now many journals that are available to anyone free of charge. One that has been around for some time is "The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning" A newer journal is the "Journal of Learning for Development".
What caught my attention recently, is when I heard that it costs around USD 3,000 and possibly much more, to publish in an "open access journal". More investigation found a report titled: "Costs and Benefits of Open Access - A Guide for Managers in Southern African Higher Education". This article describes how some publishers have taken to charging academics wishing to publish their articles, rather than charging the users of the articles, such as libraries. Since many academics still live in the "publish or perish" world, they are forced to publish articles on a regular basis. If institutions insist on only accepting publications in journals that charge exorbitant fees, academics may be left in a position of having to spend large amounts of their salaries just to keep their academic credentials.
Simply moving the cost of publishing journal articles from libraries to the individual academic does not seem to improve access to knowledge. The Access to Knowledge movement (http://tinyurl.com/6kqmjx2) believes that: "everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."
Opening access (http://tinyurl.com/ber752) to anyone reading the content at the expense of new research not being published due to the costs seems counter-productive. Open Access journals may be fee-based or non-fee-based (http://tinyurl.com/283mov4). Whichever they are, researchers, academics and learners should not be at a disadvantage because of the costs imposed on either publishing or using the research. It is especially important that institutions do not only recognise publications in journals that charge high fees, when they do not cover the cost of these for their researchers, academics and learners.
Lists of journals that are free to access are available at: http://africaeducation.org/books.htm
Submitted on 24 March 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.
When did "Open Access" become the expensive option?