Improving Access to Journals for Aspiring Scholars
In most cultures around the world, academia is held with a very high regard. It is attributed with educating the young and carrying on thousands of years of human heritage. For this reason, it is no surprise that many people in the world want to become a part of this tradition by becoming scholars, or a distinguished academic often affiliated with a university. Academics work hard, make a good living, and find great fulfillment in their important work. However, many people throughout the world are unable to become academics
because doing so requires many years of top-tier education and other resources that not everyone can obtain. This is even more pertinent, because in recent years many students in third-world countries have been making the push to become university academics. Among the resources that help the process of becoming an academic are academic journals that are hard to obtain because so many require payment to access.
A scholarly journal contains articles written by a scholar on a particular subject that is well researched and peer-reviewed for accuracy and reliability. Academic journals often contain hundreds of articles in a particular field. Most of these are owned by companies that require payments of tens or even thousands of dollars to access. Because of this, the only people who can afford access are the extremely wealthy or those who get it through a university or institute. If you are a poor high school student in India, you definitely cannot afford one. This is a big deal, as not having access to these journals can impede one’s progress in pursuing the education needed to become a scholar. Obviously, at the collegiate level, if a student in a developing country attends a university that cannot afford the journals, they will not be able to become a scholar because becoming one requires many hours using academic journals in writing and analysis. However, not having access to journals can break the pathway to scholarship earlier on in secondary education. An important part of matriculating in college is attending an academically dynamic school, where students undertake things like writing research papers, science fairs, or even just in depth-research for a presentation. Not having access to academic journals makes these things virtually impossible, as each one depends upon academic journals for completion. Potentially, these journals could even help aspiring students obtain a scholarship that would allow them to attend college for much less improving their odds of becoming a scholar. It then follows that without academic journals students will be greatly handicapped in this regard without access to academic journals.
Fortunately, it is within our power as citizens of the first world to change this by giving access to scientific journals to poor students in developing countries. This can be done without using any of the illegal means suggested by Aaron Swartz in his Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto. Instead, we can implement some of the legal measures he suggests, such as archiving un-copyrighted journals. Both options would be successful in dispersing access to vital journals in schools of the developing world. This option would be to start new academic journals that require no monetary payment for access. This would probably be welcomed in the third world, as access to existing journals is expensive.
Clearly, this is an issue where positive change can be made, it is just a question of having people willing to get the ball rolling.