My cohort is finally, and slowly, arriving at the Defences and emerging out as PhDs (I’m getting there, I swear!), and as is the case for the majority of new PhDs these days, many of them are unable to land any academic jobs or even Post-Docs. And that suddenly raises new issues, especially for those who are still hoping to get back to academia in a couple of years, after they amassed a few more publications: once you’re no longer a student, you have no access to publications.
My institution allows alumni to get a paid account that grants access to a small list of publications. Membership at APSA and the CPSA will buy me access to some leading publications as well. But once I leave the university, I will be completely barred from the majority of academic work out there (unless I’m willing to do all my work physically at the library, which as an alumnus I can gain access to).
That’s a scary prospect for someone like me, who had easy access to one of the best libraries in the world for the past seven years, and was not without access to academic journals for a decade and a half. I got used to being able to just Google Scholar any piece of data that caught my fancy and read up on it easily. But once I graduate, it will be all gone.
That’s my Halloween thought right there.
This is yet another reason to support the Open Access movement in academia. Having to depend on an institutional library for access to the world’s research means that those of us who are expelled from it by the vagaries of the market are doubly punished, and it means keeping up with the hope of hopping back on when things improve is that much harder.
There’s very little justification as it is for a situation where publishers get to freely use the work of academics who were paid and motivated by somebody else to write articles, and then turn around and sell that exact work back to universities at exorbitant prices, undermining the very point of academic work: generating knowledge and making it accessible fo the world.
As more and more new PhDs end up in jobs outside of academia, this situation is getting even worse: many people who are qualified and willing to participate in the scientific debate are getting shut out of it for no good reason.
Open Access is about returning to the roots of what academic work is for. It’s not just about opening the Ivory Tower to the layman, but also about ensuring that those occupying this tower can continue to benefit from the ideas and knowledge generated by those who left it for greener pastures.