Hey reddit!

We use research everyday to create scientific and medical advances, understand culture, and fuel the economy, but articles can cost $30 or more each to read—even though much of the research is funded by the public in the first place. The alternative to this is open access, academic publishing which allows free, immediate, online access to peer-reviewed research with full rights to reuse the work.

This week is International Open Access Week, and we invite you to join us in celebrating all things open access!

Proof we're real!

Those of us answering questions today:

Take Action:

Let's stand together to promote open access worldwide

Unámonos para promover el acceso abierto en todo el mundo

Download the Open Access Button

Right to Research Student Statement

Comments: 93 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

two_off21 karma

What's the biggest obstacle to getting papers out from behind that $30 pay-wall?

Why do papers get behind the wall in to begin with?

adiEFF22 karma

Right now, many open access policies are focused on freeing up the future fruits of research. That is, it's easier to implement institutional and funder policies so all research from here on out is openly available.

One of the biggest obstacles of getting papers out behind a paywall is that authors generally assign their copyrights over to the journals they publish in. If an author wants to make their paper available online or in a repository (with the full blessing of the law), doing so becomes much harder. Publishers are feeling the heat, engaging in absurd crackdowns.

Luckily, we're seeing not only a rapid growth in availability and prominence of open access journals, where OA is the default, but we're also seeing a rise in institutional repositories that are researchers and professors are contributing to.

forteller12 karma

Is it problematic that the term "Open Access" can mean anything from only "free to read, nothing else", to "totally free as in freedom, do whatever you like with it"?

What should be done so that we can speak more clearly about this and to ensure that journals, universities, scientists, governments, etc. dosn't just opt for the least open version of OA just because that's also OA(= that's what people are asking for)

adiEFF14 karma

This is a fascinating question. "Open access" as a term in this space—free, immediate, and unfettered access to scholarly research—has been around for a while. But you're right: to people new to the subject, the term may not convey much. Also, journals and repositories often claim to be open access, but maintain strict copyright policies that don't allow for reuse.

I think one cool project to address this is the HowOpenIsIt? guide for evaluating journals. It does a pretty neat job of standardizing terms about open access.

alesloan10 karma

Let me start off by saying that I'm a big supporter: I've used Creative Commons licenses whenever applicable, going as far as adding the CC license symbols to original work (drawings, diagrams) on high school posters, or making a point that any video I release, no matter how unlikely it is to be useful to many other people, is released under a CC license. I've been a supporter of EFF throughout my student years - both mentally (by following the work and spreading the word) and financially (albeit as a student I could only contribute a little bit, I felt that it's important that I take part at least a little bit).

Now fast forward to the present. I'm a PhD student in Engineering in a research institution in Switzerland. While I do sometimes have a say in things (e.g. I persuaded a company where I did research for a few months to convert all their workstations to Linux), most of the time I feel like all these things are beyond my control.

So my question is: As a PhD student, is there anything I can do to aid the cause directly? Be it with my personal work, or by spreading ideas that could work for whole departments? Or is this something that needs to start at a different, much higher, level?

adiEFF8 karma

Really great question. First of all, thank you for the long-term support! We really appreciate it.

I think that as a PhD student, you have a particular amount of sway: you're at an institution, you're actually doing research, and you're the future of your field. It'd be great if your institution had an open access policy and repository, for example, or if they created a fund to help offset open access journal submissions.

These changes require faculty and administrative buy in, and just one person may not be able to influence everyone, but maybe you can get your fellow graduate students on board! Is there a grad student caucus or group? Mailing list? Some way to gauge interest (or spread thoughts) about open access? Take advantage of those!

Also, don't be discouraged. All these processes and policies take lots of time, and research institutions are notoriously resistant to change. It sometimes helps to point to other similar institutions that are implementing these sorts of policies.

If you need more support, materials, resources, feel free to contact any of us—we'd be happy to help or point you in the right direction!

Phrea3 karma

Ridiculously low interest in this AMA, IMHO. ?

Next time, EFF, please keep the title generic, and expand only in the comment box? That might generate more interest?
Interest in your cause is key, seems to me at least.

Saying you're the EFF and doing an AMA would certainly spark way more interest than the title you used now.
I'm on your side, make it count next time ! The EFF is a big deal to large portions of the internet, and one of those large portions resides here on reddit.

EDIT: question marks at the end of sentences help keep the stupid bot at bay. ?

adiEFF2 karma

Duly noted! Thanks for the feedback.

cs6062 karma

Who gives better hugs, Joe or David?

cs6061 karma

And I'm just going to leave this here.

JoeR2RC2 karma

That's a more difficult question than it first appears. We're both big fans of evidence and the results of the randomised controlled trial aren't in yet. We're assured they're both pretty good though.

adiEFF2 karma

So... David?

sloppyminutes2 karma

Hi! A lot of the intended readers of published academic research already have free access to it, paid by their university or company. What kind of change in readership are open access publishers interested in? Is there more of an effort to reach people in developing countries, for example, or to make the academic papers easier/more exciting to read for a non-academic audience?

adiEFF7 karma

You're right in pointing out that, often, a bulk of the intended audience for such research already has access to such works through institutional subscriptions. That being said, not every institution can afford all they need access to; Harvard, the richest university, for example, announced that they simply cannot afford all the journals they need. This is especially true for smaller research universities and institutions, and ones around the world.

Opening up research could also lead to some interesting cross-pollination between fields. One of the big tenets of open access is reuse—if you can do something beyond simply reading an article, such as text mining or other higher level analyses, cool new things could come out.

I'll be thinking about the readership aspect, though! I wonder if anyone has noticed trends of scientific scholarship becoming friendlier for a wider audience?

Phrea2 karma

I don't have a question, I just like to say that you guys are doing a great job, and for a very long time too, thanks !

Since the automoderator bot requires a question mark to be posted on a parent post here, here it is, you nitwit of a bot. ?

adiEFF3 karma

Great, uh, question ;) Thanks for your support!

laurambp1 karma

Thanks for doing this! I've worked for a publishing vendor and as a contractor for a medical journal company. The thing that I loved most about these jobs was the access to real, up to date medical research. When all of the controversy got to a high about something like vaccines or birth control, I was able to easily find, download, and share current research and medical documentation with people who were more likely to use gossip new sources for their information. I lamented when I realized that I could not do this to the same extent as before with the Ebola scare - there is so much misinformation out there, and if people have access to the same materials that doctors do, maybe they wouldn't freak out so much about the wrong things. Fortunately, there are still good sources out there, but the library isn't nearly as huge as what I had access to before.

How would you personally recommend using Open Access to get the correct medical information and modern research out there to share with people? I currently use Pub Med to find research, but wanted to know some other great open access sources or journals.

adiEFF1 karma

One useful tool might be the Directory of Open Access Journals. Half of the journals linked to their let you search by article, and that can be a great way of finding recent medical literature. I'd definitely do your due diligence to make sure the journals and their articles meet some standard of quality—in other words, finding "correct medical information" might take a bit of work. But I also think that last point is true, regardless of if the article is open or closed.

javalady841 karma

How we will control quality of open-access publications? Without expensive publishers controlling the content, how do we know which journals are reputable and trustworthy, and which aren't?

DavidOpenAccess7 karma

The quality of open-access publications is controlled in the same manner as traditional journals. A journal's economic or access policy does not determine its peer review policy. Open Access journals use the same peer review procedures, quality, processes and systems as traditional journals. If traditional journals convert to Open Access, the quality of peer review doesn't change. The key variables in journal quality are the quality of authors, the quality of editors, and the quality of referees, all of which are independent of the journal's price or medium.

We're focusing on open-access for peer-reviewed literature. The goal is to remove access barriers, not changing the quality of research.

There is also a very weak correlation between high impact factor journals (all those studied are toll access journals) and retraction rate. Reference here

Of course, there are "predatory" publishers but do not publish with them. You can find advice on how to spot predatory publishers on our site here.

Edit: Added hyperlink.

adiEFF4 karma

One fun complication is the pushback against peer review as a quality control mechanism. The Winnower is an interesting publication trying to shake this model up, and they've pointed out a bunch of flaws with peer review as it's done today, especially with regards to bad articles getting published (and retracted) by prominent journals. Their perspective, I believe, is that the best peer review comes post-production. Perhaps a bit off topic, but food for though.

forteller1 karma

What's the simplest/best way to tell normal people why OA is important?

adiEFF2 karma

Hmm, two potential ways, off the top of my head:

  1. A video. Something like this.

  2. A story. Something personal, like this interview with a speech therapist who couldn't access journal articles without spending a lot of money.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

adiEFF2 karma

I sure hope not! Most research that needs to be classified can remain rightfully classified, even under open access policies. (Though that brings up a bigger question of what is rightfully classified... but that's for a different AMA!)