As the Coronavirus crisis deepens, quality information is critical to individual, community, state and national preparedness. Staying informed should be easily available in the “digital age”, and it is, but with a considerable cost, both financially and in terms of human health.
Some very large publishers have managed to develop very large revenue streams by restricting access to valuable data. Using paywalls and subscription services, these organisations generate large revenue streams for material they do not author.
As the “middleman” they can charge sizeable access fees which are too costly for most individuals and smaller institutions, especially in developing countries.
Subscriptions also require a large upfront payment, something that’s unattractive to someone simply looking for a particular piece of information.
In recent years, there’s been growing concern around the monetisation of academic research which is:
a) in the best interests of the public
b) funded by the public purse
Europe has been taking a strong stance on ensuring publicly funded academic research be available for free and there has been increased scrutiny around the limitations of paywalls and other subscription-based models when accessing medical and other scientific research.
And Coronavirus has only reinforced the negative impact of paywalls on the dissemination of life-saving information and the real world implications it’s having on people’s ability to find quality research.
Researchers and authors do need to be compensated for their efforts but opportunistic “middle-men” should not be entitled to profiteer off of the hard work of others.