I have been seeing messages from UK University Repository staff listing the events that they will be doing next week – for Open Access week. One thing that seems to be popular this year is to “Screen” a “movie”, something that may appear to be not a very open access activity. To screen a film in public usually there has to be all sorts of considerations of permission and right licencing. Then there is the matter of charging for a ticket, ice-cream selling pop corn at inflated prices (pun intended).
I decided to take a look at it, and see what the fuss was all about, and although it talked about many themes with which I am already familiar, I thought that it was quite interesting and put over the concept of open access to information in a useful way. It is a series of inter-cut interviews with academics and publishers in the open access world which have been edited by theme of the discussion. It is a pity that Elsevier did not take part in this – their perspective would have been interesting, but apparently they turned down their invitation.
The overall point to the film is the problem of trying to access a journal or article online and not being able to download it, because you or your institution do not pay for a subscription to the journal. This means that authors cannot get copies of their own work, and taxpayers who’s money have paid for the research and publication of the article cannot see that their money has been well spent. Well, you can, but you have to pay a lot of money for access. It is like hitting a wall – hence the term “paywall”.
Above is a picture of a Scottish fort, on top a hill, with a thick defensive wall, keeping everyone out, except for some slits and a rather modern gate. You can imagine that the paywall is like this, with one little door that is controlled by the publisher to let you in to read the article you want. You may consider that this is fair, the articles belong to someone, and reflect hours of research.
The argument of Open Access is that what is the point of having all that knowledge locked up for hardly anyone to see when the researchers want their work to have some influence in the world, and there are people locked outside trying to get to the knowledge, to build on the work, to solve global problems, to help humanity and science. Such walls should be broken down, like this one, the old Kelp store in Rathlin island.
The information is then free to be used by anyone, in any country, rich or poor to help them solve the problems of the world, or simply to keep up with new scientific and medical thought, to provide the best service to their local community – basically making the world a better place.
The film is a little over an hour long, and you can watch it on the small screen of your phone or laptop, unless you are fortunate enough to be near a big screening. The website also tells you how you can screen it yourself – it has CC BY 4.0 open licence, so all it costs is your time.