Inaccessible academia: a knowledge crisis


Giselle Barajas

Databases are filled with a multitude of academic research and journals. These resources should be accessible to the general public as an owed right.

For starters, it is important to acknowledge that accessibility to academic sources for college students is relatively not as difficult as it is for non-students. For instance, Augie students have access to a plethora of academic research through the college library, I-Share and databases covered within their tuition costs. However, the majority of the general public does not attend college and can’t access these resources as easily as college students can.

According to Statistica, only about 20 million students in the U.S. attend college at a time. For most, once a student graduates from college, their “free” access to academia is stripped. Since students no longer pay tuition after graduating, they would need to pay ridiculous amounts of money to access these sources.

Specifically, Vox reported that big publishers like Elsevier charge academics thousands of dollars to make their research open access. This means that even if an academic wants to publish their findings for others to view for free, they’d have to take on the financial burden instead.

Not only that, but colleges have to spend millions of dollars a year to make academia accessible for their students.

Even prestigious institutions like Harvard can’t afford for their students to access all research and journals available.

Essentially, both academics and the public alike are cheated by publishing companies. This holds especially true since most academic research is funded through our tax dollars, according to Berkeley. No matter what, these publishers expect someone to pay to access academic sources, whether that be the student or researcher themselves.

It’s disgusting that we somehow have allowed publishing companies to leech and profit off of the works of academics and to force the public to pay for research that was funded through tax dollars to begin with. These greedy publishers wouldn’t even have the ability to profit off of research if it weren’t for the public’s funds.

In other words, the U.S. taxpayers subsidize academia, yet they are also forced to pay boatloads of money in order to access it.

This conundrum isn’t even a new concept: there have been activists who have spoken on the inaccessibility of academia. Particularly, a woman named Alexandra Elbakyn needed access to free articles in order to finish her neuroscience research. As a result, Elbakyn took back what was rightfully hers by creating a website filled with pirated academic sources called Sci-Hub. However, she got sued for millions of dollars for creating this free hub, according to The Guardian.

The fact that Elbakyn got sued for providing a public good is unreasonable, especially since Sci-Hub still has a limited selection of sources.

It is also important to note that with the price of education growing ridiculously fast, college has become increasingly more unattainable for those born into poverty. The very least these affected communities could have is accessibility to knowledge from academic research, but gatekeepers simply don’t allow them.

College should not be the only gateway into access to this knowledge. With how high tuition prices are, hoarding these resources from poor people and restricting access to college students for only four years is absurd.

What even is the point of spending all this time and money for academic research if it is only accessible to a small portion of people?

Graphic by Alyssa Duckett/Observer Staff