Generation Open: What do you know about open access?

It’s Open Access Week this week, and the theme is Generation Open. To mark it, we’ve asked a range of students and early career researchers from around the world to tell us what they think about open access. We’ll be bringing you their answers over the course of the week.

Emma SackvilleFirst up is Emma Sackville (right), who’s in the first year of her PhD at the University of Bath as part of the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies which is a Doctoral Training Program focussing on issues surrounding sustainability.

How did you find out about open access? Do you think there’s much awareness of it amongst students?

I feel like I’ve been aware of open access since starting my PhD but to be honest in an abstract sort of way. As part of a conference at Bath for the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies we had a workshop with Jan Kuras from Chemistry Central and for many of us I think that was the first time we got a firm sense of what open access was and how it affected us.

What impact would it have on you if subscriptions you currently use to access research became unavailable to you?

As part of a University we have access to a range of subscription only journals, which is great but there’s nothing more annoying than spending hours searching for a particular piece of information only to find out we don’t have the journal subscription!

We use the literature for so many things, from methods to ideas as well as to simply find out if research has already been done. The thought of not having access to any of the journals that we rely so heavily on for our research makes doing a PhD seem almost impossible!

What benefits do you think there are to publishing open access? And do you think there are any barriers?

I think one of the big benefits of publishing open access is that it shows a commitment to improving public engagement with science, which is something I feel strongly about as a researcher. This is becoming more and more important especially for government funded research, where it seems wrong that the tax payers then can’t access the results they’ve paid for.

Of course a side effect of this is that researchers may need to spend some time explaining these results and in some ways I think this could be a barrier to open access. Another big barrier in my mind is the financial side of things – even after our workshop with Jan I’m still not completely sure about how the business model works!

What do you think publishers (and others) should be doing to raise awareness of open access?

padlock-166882_1920I think workshops such as the one we had at Bath are a great way to raise awareness and maybe this is something publishers could run in conjunction with universities. I think the universities themselves have a part to play in ensuring all their students know about open access, again maybe through workshops or seminars.

On top of this though it is also important that students try and find out about what the open access policy is at their own university and what they want to happen with the work they’ve spent three or four years completing!

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