You don’t get openness for nothing

<Warning, post may be a bit preachy – photo:>

This isn't a post about the financial cost of open education, but rather the reciprocal, moral cost. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working through a lot of OER publications for the OER Impact map. I've also been reading a lot of MOOC, open access & open scholarship publications for my Battle for Open book.

One thing that surprises and irritates me is the number of such publications that aren't published under an open access licence. It is a tad ironic to say the least when you encounter an article along the lines of "How OERs will transform education" – please pay $24.00 to access the article.

I'm not usually one for the kind of Open Stalinist approach, outing people for not being open enough and dictating exactly how people should be open, I think it's counter-productive, unimaginative and not very pleasant. But on this subject I am a hard-liner.

Now, I think all articles should be open access anyway, but I think if you are doing any research in the field of open education (MOOCs, OA, OER, open data, etc), then as soon as you start doing that research you are morally obliged to publish results open access. I don't care which method (although if Green route, make it easy to find). You only get to do that research (even if you are critical of it) because others have been open. You are therefore beholden to reciprocate in a like manner. If you don't want to, or feel that the journal you are targeting isn't OA, then choose another subject area. Openness is the route that allows you to do that research and it also has value – people will want to read your work because it is about openness. And you don't get that for free – Open access is the price of admission.


  1. Hi Martin,
    Fully agree. It’s absolutely contradictory to publish articles on openness in closed journals. I was thinking about this recently and wonder if it’s more related to the need to publish in higher quality journals, or at least in journals with higher impact factors (the two may not necessarily be the same).
    I was looking recently at open access journals to publish something in, that also contained a high impact factor. It’s a challenge, unless you’re prepared to pay $2000 (for Computers in Education, etc). I worked though a few of the top edtech journals according to Google Scholar Metrics ( but many tend to want paying for open access. This seriously bugs me – paying to be published surely raises an ethical dilemma???

  2. Hi Peter, I wouldn’t want to go down the ‘which OA route’ is best argument really. I think if you can afford to pay (eg you have a research grant from one of the councils and fees are built in), then that’s fine. If not look at other journals eg IRRODL, JIME. I think you’re right about the impact, but that’s the price here, you can’t have your open cake and eat it. Part of the reason people will cite your paper or publish it is because openness is of interest. It has a ‘market’ value – so we shouldn’t let people get that value without sharing back is my view. That’s just the price of researching this area – accept it or go and research multimedia in classrooms or something. I’m quite strident about it – I don’t care quite so much about other aspects of openness, I understand that people may not use open source software, or sign up with Coursera etc, I don’t think there’s one way to do openness. But sharing research about openness openly is non-negotiable for me.

  3. I agree completely, Martin. It is very hypocritical of a researcher or journal to publish about open education but have the resulting publication NOT open. It’s kind of like a “share-alike” creative commons agreement, isn’t it? Only it is not stated that way. I’ve actually even gone and thought about what the “share-alike” means when citing sources – if I write an academic article that cites mostly open access journal articles, wouldn’t it be fair to have the resulting article open access as well? (I know that’s not what “share alike” means, but one could interpret it that way).

  4. Came here from our convo on Twitter re closedness of this article I can’t comment on the author’s situation but whilst I wish the article was open and hope an open pre-print may be available in due course, I do appreciate some reasons why authors, particularly early career researchers may not be able always to publish open access. Peter’s point about costs is telling – and one benefit (amongst the myriad disbenefits) of closed access is that author does not have to pay. One of the points made by Lesley about power and privilege in the article about treating open/closed as unproblematic binary could be very relevant “I would argue that – however seductive this heterotopia of desire– the true potential to challenge privilege and power in education lies elsewhere, and such a strong binary construct only serves to flatten critique in a manner analogous to that described by Latour (2004). ” From my experience of the exercise of power in some academic contexts, I can imagine author pays further complicating the power struggles around naming of additional ‘authors’ in work largely done by junior researchers.
    I am lucky – I am a retired has been and can elect always to publish open access but my pension can’t stretch to $2000 so that restricts my outlets (not saying they would accept my work anyway!)

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