With the rising cost of journal subscriptions, libraries have struggled to maintain the level of access needed to keep their students and staff engaged in the current academic conversation. Even Harvard University announced to their faculty in 2012 that they could no longer afford all the journal subscriptions their scholars and students needed.
But there is change on the horizon! Researchers, students, librarians, and other community members have been developing a new way to share, distribute, and curate research outputs – this is called open access. The term “open access” is used to describe peer-reviewed, scholarly research that is available online, is free to access and can be fully used in the digital environment.
Not only does open access help the global academic community gain access to the research it needs to progress, it also offers opportunities for interested members of the public learn and contribute to that process. A spectacular example of this happened right here in Maryland! In 2012 Jack Andraka used open access research to come up with a test for the early stages of pancreatic cancer that is now undergoing medical trials – he was 15 years old at the time and still in high school.