Can you imagine a world in which we know the information to find a solution to a problem exists, but we cannot find the information, or you can find it, but it is not accessible? For example, you live in an area where there is a scarcity of resources to grow your own food, and a researcher elsewhere in the world has come up with a brilliant solution to grow food without requiring any water. This researcher has published the solution in a trusted peer-reviewed academic journal, but still – you do not have access to it. That while the research was conducted using monies contributed by your parents/yourself through paying taxes. Meanwhile, people around you are starving, there is an outbreak of diseases because of low immune systems, and it is not getting better. The one problem leading to the next, and time is of the essence. This while the solution is out there and can change everything, if only you had access to it ….
The above example might be extreme, but this exactly the reality we are facing today. All over the world, monopolist publishers are making huge profits from research conducted and published with our tax payers’ monies (Resnick & Belluz, 2019). Public universities such as the University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, and Nelson Mandela University rely heavily on the monies they receive from the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Department of Science and Innovation to conduct their research (see the SA Research Output Policy). Without the monies received through these two departments, universities in South Africa would find it difficult to conduct research to find solutions to local problems. And who better than our own researchers to find solutions to the problems we experience in our immediate environments?
As the youth and future adults, it is your responsibility to always advocate for information to remain open. There are many reasons for this, of which we only share a few benefits:
- When research is open, all the people in the world can equally benefit from it. Open Access to information is, therefore, a democratiser, leveling the playing field.
- Research findings can be verified, to see whether it can be trusted.
- You won’t have to start from scratch again, which can be very costly. All that is required is that you build on existing research, taking the world forward one step at a time.
- Conducting research is very expensive, and we cannot afford to all the time repeat research. We will get nowhere if this was the case.
- And many more!
Therefore – along with advocating for more affordable and easily accessible Internet connectivity, also advocate for all funded research to always be openly accessible. You can read Quest: Science for South Africa because of open access. You might argue that you could have easily subscribed if it was sold in a local book store, or if you wanted to buy it online. But not all South Africans can necessarily afford it, and it would result in an even further divide among the more privileged and the less privileged. To add to this – it would exclude people without monies to become part of the solution. Access to high-quality information is a human right according to UNESCO, and a right you should never take for granted – now and in the future – so that greedy profit-making entities not take it away from you. The future belongs to you. Advocate for research to be as open possible, and as closed necessary only.
Read more about Open Access Week, celebrated from 21 to 27 October 2019 globally, at https://sparcopen.org/our-work/open-access-week/