Why Open Access is Important

There are a lot of misconceptions about Open Access. Here, we explore why Open Access is important by linking it to academic publishing more broadly and global issues like climate change and health research. We aim to clarify the benefits of Open Access and why governments around the world are mandating it.

What is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) is a publishing model for scholarly research that makes information immediately available to readers at no cost. The research is often free to reuse for scholarly purposes.

In short, some of the goals of OA are:

  • Availability and reusability of scientific research for the public;
  • Accessibility and transparency of scientific communication;
  • Facilitating scientific collaboration;
  • Transparency for the methodology, observation, and collection of data.

By eliminating the barriers to accessing and producing research, OA is helping to ensure that scientific research can reach its potential.

Why is Open Access important?

How does Open Access intersect and help us address other key issues? Let’s take a look.

Artificial intelligence

The potential that AI offers is shaking up entire industries, including Open Access science. Like any new technology, AI presents both a threat and opportunity. It requires reflection, adjustment, and adaptation.

If implemented carefully, AI could help us respond to some of the issues that OA scientific publishing faces, including the increasing amounts of data being produced, language barriers, and imbalances in outputs between countries. It could also help to promote openness in datasets and content aggregators.

AI is changing Open Access; it’s changing everything. Ultimately, though, it’s a tool, so how it’s used determines its value. In our article, AI is Changing Open Access Science we explore this topic further, looking deeper at the challenges OA publishing is facing, how AI can help, and what we need to watch out for as it’s being increasingly implemented.

Citizen science

Open Access is a movement that seeks to make research accessible to anyone, anywhere. It aims to remove any barriers to research, like paywalls. Similarly, citizen science seeks to remove the barriers between scientists and ordinary people during the process of creating science.

Citizen science is scientific work performed by ordinary people without any special qualifications. It is recognised by the EU and USA as a key part of open science, which is a movement focusing on ensuring all parts of science are openly accessible to all.

However, some express concerns about the integrity and reliability of citizen science projects, especially around the collection of data.

In our article Citizen Science is Open Science That Can Tackle the SDGs, we explore citizen science, scientist’s concerns about it, and how MDPI researchers have led a citizen science project in Ethiopia that tackles 8/17 of the UN’s SDGs.

Climate change

Climate change is arguably the most pressing global issue. Science plays a big role in ensuring we make informed decisions and the necessary changes.

The climate affects all humans as it’s central to food production, transport, infrastructure, clothing, health, and more. However, the climate is a dynamic system, making it very complex to model. We need large amounts of collaborative research from various disciplines to tackle climate change.

This will require an unprecedented effort from scientists, which OA can help facilitate. OA is important in this matter because it will help enable interdisciplinary research, boost the visibility and speed of research, and help communicate important findings to the places that need it most.

In our article We Need Open Access to Tackle Climate Change in 2024, we explore the grim picture that climate change reports present. We show how science can mobilise, as it did in 2020, to address global issues, and also explore how the benefits of Open Access mentioned above can ensure we face climate change together.

Fighting misinformation

Fake news generally refers to misleading information that is presented as factual. It can be spread intentionally or unintentionally and sometimes has a motive, ranging from spreading uncertainty to money making.

With improved access to new technologies, the number of platforms for distributing misinformation will only increase. This makes it increasingly difficult to ascertain what is factual and what isn’t. Such a confusing environment enables misinformation to easily spread.

OA provides the ability to freely access research, stats, and data. This ensures the barriers between academia and wider society can be removed. Barriers to research can cause people to feel alienated and suspicious of the information they cannot access.

In our article How Open Access is Fighting Misinformation, we explore why fake news is so prevalent and what it looks like, highlighting MDPI papers tackling the matter.

Health Equity

Health research is essential for global health, but when locked behind paywalls, access difficulties emerge in low-to-middle-income countries, which make up 85% of the world’s population.

A health disparity refers to a health difference that is closely linked with economic, social, and environmental disadvantage. So, conversely, health equity refers to the commitment to reduce, and ultimately remove, disparities in health. This involves striving for the highest standards of health for everyone, especially for those who need it most.

Accessing knowledge is clearly a fundamental requirement for tackling health challenges globally. By removing barriers to research via OA, we can ensure that vital information and cutting-edge insights can be accessed and applied regardless of financial situations.

In our article, Achieving Health Equity with Open Access, we explore the topic in further detail. We highlight common health disparities, the value of health research, and the benefits of making it OA.

Interdisciplinary research

Interdisciplinary research is on the rise, primarily because it’s ideal for tackling global issues like climate change that transcend the boundaries of disciplines and require a concerted approach.

In short, interdisciplinary research analyses and harmonises links between disciplines into a coordinated whole. It is an interactive approach. A helpful example is the field of oceanography which covers all aspects of the ocean. It transcends disciplinary boundaries, involving scientists from fields ranging from biology to economics.

However, for interdisciplinary research to work, scholarly research needs to be available. OA boosts the capabilities of interdisciplinary research by ensuring there are no barriers to the research. It helps to ensure researchers do not face any barriers whilst researching, speeding up their work and broadening their access to cutting-edge findings.

In our article, Open Access and Interdisciplinary Research Support Each Other, we outline what interdisciplinary research is, why it’s growing in popularity, and its relationship with OA.

Open Access and MDPI

MDPI is the largest Open Access publisher in the world. Accordingly, we are committed to ensuring you stay up to date with the benefits of Open Access. We will be updating this post monthly with articles showing you why Open Access is important.