Editorial Snapshot: Open access on the silver screen

– G.A., Senior Editor

The merits of open access and burden of journal subscriptions have been hotly debated in libraries, laboratories, and online forums for many years. However, these exchanges have generally been limited to the exchange of opinions in verbal or written form. This year, the debate entered a new medium.

A documentary movie about the academic publishing industry and open access received its global premiere in Washington DC on September 5, 2018. Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, which can be viewed for free online or downloaded for free from the official website, is now being shown at screenings around the world.

The movie does not claim to provide a fair and balanced look at the industry and indeed is very critical of the costs associated with accessing manuscripts published in traditional journals. Therefore, its audience may be limited to proponents of open access and those who resent publically funded research being accessible only if a fee is paid. However, it did receive the attention of one of the for-profit publishers the movie discusses. A review, which included some criticism of the movie, was published on the Nature website.

For-profit publishers of academic manuscripts have had a long and prosperous run as the major provider of research findings. While the open access movement has certainly produced changes among the major publishers and facilitated the growth of smaller and more specialized publishers, it appears that for-profit publishers will continue to remain strong in the near-term. However, only time will tell if Paywall: The Business of Scholarship produces enough of an impact to force more dramatic changes in the world of academic publishing.

Click here for the Japanese version.