There is a revolution going on in education. Slowly, but surely, academia is opening its doors, thanks to a few far-sighted organisations/individuals.
As any university-level student knows, accessing research requires money. First, there are the university fees (which vary according to country, of course). Then there are the materials: textbooks, internet access, your own computer (becoming more and more indispensable for university students). And that’s before the journal subscriptions, the other books, the cost of photocopying, and even the cost of living.
But, keeping up with the research world and the new developments in your field of interest could become cheaper in future. At present, you need to be lucky enough to attend a university with funds to buy all the relevant books and journal subscriptions – at an astronomical cost. But any smaller university has to make choices. A year’s subscription to academic journals can set back a university library several thousand Euro. And if you wanted to buy yourself a single article (we’re talking 20 pages of text probably), you can expect to pay around €30 for the privilege. (George Monbiot wrote an excellent piece in 2011 criticising academic publishing houses, you can read it here).
Now, finally and thank goodness, Open Source journals are beginning to put a chink in the money-making machine of academic publishers. In my field, there are several such (peer-reviewed) journals that I regularly consult, and am happy to contribute to: European Integration online Papers and Journal of Contemporary European Research are two of the main ones. And then there are mailing lists, and other websites where academics can circulate their “working drafts” or “nearly published drafts” of their papers (sometimes the Social Science Research Network serves such a purpose). Depending on your own field of research, you may know more, and it would be great if such sources became more main-stream in future.
And its not only the research field that is slowly descending from its ivory tower. University courses are gradually opening up to an online open source system of eduction. If you haven’t already, you really should check out courses available on coursera.org and other similar organisations.
I can only applaud these developments, to ensure easier access to knowledge, research and information. The next step is achieving universal internet access!