I’ve been advocating for open access for several years now and I thought it was depressing to read Professor Robin Osborne’s essay Why open access makes no sense in Debating Open Access. He writes that there cannot be such thing as free access to research and argues this by stating that only academically schooled people can read academic texts.
The main argument to make research available is so that all readers would then have access to quality research, not just those researchers who work at departments who can afford to subscribe to expensive journals. Osborne seems to forget that all researchers do not have access to all research they are in need of. Libraries do not have the possibility to buy or subscribe to all journals and databases a researcher at an institution might need. To use the argument “pay for research several times” is often an argument which works on those who are conserned with costs, or those who are not aware how much it costs to subscribe to scientific journals. The libraries must always prioritize and choose which journals to buy.
That’s why I would like to give you a wonderful example of what open access can result in.
Jack Andraka is a 16, soon 17 year old high schools student in Crownsville Maryland, USA. He has invented a quick, cheap and accurate way to test for pancreatic cancer. He became interested in it when his uncle passed away in panreatic cancer. This typ of cancer is difficult to detect becuase pancreas is behind many of the other internal organs. What he did was that he thought of a process where the protein Mesothelin, which is overproduced with this type of cancer, binds to anti-bodies which then attach to a nantube, which then grows bigger and thus changing the electronical properties of the nanotube network, which in turn gives answer whether a patient has cancer or not. The test itself is a paper strip soaked in the solution of anti-bodies for Mesothelin and nanotubes. This method could be used to detect other types of cancer aswell.
So, he is a high school student. To find out more about pancreatic cancer he searched the internet. Only research he could access was the research which was open access. Among all the articles he found research data which helped him to find the Mesothelin which can be found i large quantities in early stages of pancreatic cancer. He did not have access to paid databases neither could he afford to get access to toll-access articles. He is a fantastic example of what open access research may lead to.