Should Academic Research Be Made Available For Free

By Shatavisha Chakravorty

What makes human beings a superior race is the fact that we are the ones who are constantly learning from our mistakes and making consistent efforts to evolve at an intellectual level. In order to achieve that, a lot of research and development is happening everyday in different fields. The fields range from that of science and technology to that of art and literature.

Through generations people have worked in each of these fields. Most of the progress that they have made in their respective fields (at least in the last couple of decades) is something that has been documented in the form of research paper or research thesis. In fact, there are certain international bodies or organisations that regulate the world of science.

Should Academic Journals Be Free


In Chemistry we have IUPAC, for medicine we have the WHO and in the world of literature we have certain writing standards, like Chicago standard. Most of the research documentation that happens usually adheres to these. Thus, it is fair to say that any research done in a particular field is bound to be understandable by people working in that particular field.

At this point comes the million dollar question of whether academic research articles should be available for free to researcher. Now either way there are both pros and cons. This article speaks about both of them.

Advantages Of Making Research Content Available For Free

· Effective Resource Utilisation

Let us consider a situation where person A and B are both doing their research in the same field. Now considering person A has already made a certain amount of progress in their research, it does not make sense for person B to start all over from scratch and waste their time finding out something that already exists.

Rather, if the work which was done by person A is made available to them, they can take over from there and perform further research. This will result in better utilisation of their intellectual abilities. That in turn will result in not just accomplishment of B's professional goals but also result in the society progressing at a much faster rate.

· Greater Accessibility For Those Who Are Economically Challenged

A point to be noted here is that even today research papers are available. However, the availability to those are heavily priced. Thus, researchers from the Third World countries or those who do not have access to financial aids tend to stand at a loss. Since they are unable to afford the money, they tend to lose out on the latest happenings in the world of research.

· Finding Applications Of Other's Research

This is all the way more applicable in the fields of science and technology. Sometimes reading about the research of a person in a field that is related to your own may trigger you to find some applications of the same in your own field.

This doesn't just open up new horizons of opportunities but also paves the way for a more closely knit scientific world. The cumulative effect would dictate better progress for society at large and make the world a much better place to live in.

· Fair Ground For Persuasion Of Research

If academic research papers are priced or are made unavailable, what happens is a researcher may have access to certain papers but not the others. On the other hand, if all of it is made readily available, they will have access to everything. This puts everyone in the same level and makes the grounds of competitive research fairer.

Disadvantages Of Making Research Content Available For Free

· Intellectual Property Rights

Irrespective of the field they are in, if someone has published a research paper, it means that they have invested time and effort in the same. Making the same available for free would mean disregarding their efforts. It will also lead to violation of intellectual property rights, which, in the world of research, is a serious crime. Legalising this criminal activity will not do the world of research any good.

· Lack Of Incentive

For any researcher, publication of a thesis is one of the major incentives for persuasion of research. The royalty that they earn from their published work motivates them to come up with more high-quality work.

If this monetary incentive is taken away from them, they will lose the motivation of putting their best foot forward, which in turn will lead to degradation in the quality of research. Such a thing would be a massive loss to humanity.

· Lack Of Originality

This point is applicable in case of research in creative fields. If a person reads the work of too many people in the said field, their thought process is bound to be influenced by the same. This will mean their research will lack the originality it would have otherwise had.

Thus, while doing your research, it is best to not allow the work of other people affect that of your own.

· Plagiarism

If all research material is made available free of cost, it will be very difficult for any international body to regulate the plagiarism that is bound to happen. In such a scenario it will be all the way easier for cunning people to take the credit for the hard work of genuine researchers.

This will not just be unfair but will also lead to the genuine researchers losing interest in their work (after all who would want to put in the best of efforts once their work has been stolen by someone else in the past).

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