As of now, I’m writing a research paper in my AP Seminar class about the extent that gun violence impacts lower-income communities. This means that I’ve spent the past two weeks or so scouring the Internet and scrolling past a myriad of search results, with the occasional clicking away of virus-inducing ads, in search of information.
In general, finding relevant research to your topic is always an arduous affair, with many tedious tasks that have to be completed to ensure you’re only using the most premier data. Oftentimes, we turn to academic research papers for top-tier evidence to strengthen our work. They are usually written by elite, extremely astute individuals, peer-reviewed by other equally intelligent individuals in their field, and published in well-respected educational journals. These resources, while exceptionally valuable, are, unfortunately, incredibly difficult to access.
Countless academic journals hide behind either outrageous fees or paywalls, “a system that prevents Internet users from accessing certain Web content without a paid subscription,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Subscriptions to these journals can cost up to thousands of dollars for just one year, and these rates have only risen exponentially over time. For example, Elsevier, a well-respected and renowned academic journal, charges 31.50 for reading one single article published by them. Apparently you can put a price on education.
However, if you’re lucky enough, your school or university might have the funds to grant you entry to these scholastic sources by buying access to academic databases. In fact, Blake is privileged enough to be one of those schools. We can utilize resources such as Gale Academic, ProQuest, and many other databases that hold many academic journals for us to use in our learning experiences. Speaking from experience, these websites had provided me with facts and figures I would have never uncovered from a simple Google search.
Unfortunately, many institutions and individuals do not have these same advantages in their arsenal. These same academic resources that Blake is so fortunate to have, are out of reach for many others. Countless other schools and individuals do not have the chance to participate in the same higher-level learning experience that we do, just because they do not have the money.
Economic status should never be a debilitating factor when it comes to furthering one’s education, yet, time and time again, it deprives many individuals of the learning experience that they deserve. Higher-ups in academia love to preach that education should be accessible to all, but what they really mean is that education should only be accessible to those who can feed into their capitalistic urges.
Being more or less affluent should not be a deciding factor in the quality of your educational resources. The fact that many people are unable to access these integral pieces of information because of money is incredibly classist, and it further accentuates the divide between the lower and upper classes.
To add insult to injury, things become even more unfair when we realize that for researchers to be able to do their job, we pay the government in our taxes so that they can supply university researchers with the needed funds to conduct their research. Like, do you know how ridiculous that entire ordeal sounds? Not only did I pay for the research to be administered, I have to pay to read it? Yeah, no.
Not only that but, the money from the fees does not even go to the researchers, either. The funds go to the publishing companies themselves, who make a huge profit. According to Martin Hagve, specialty registrar at the Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, University Hospital of North Norway, “the academic publishing industry has a large financial turnover. Its worldwide sales amount to more than USD 19 billion, which positions it between the music industry and the film industry.” So, not only does the public have to pay to acquire research that they funded, the money that we give up doesn’t even go to the people who conducted the research in the first place. You guys hear how crazy that sounds, right?
Money is not the only debilitating factor in furthering many people’s education. Far too many academic works are often written in such complex and specific jargon that it makes comprehension of the content entirely too difficult. If these academic journals are meant to educate, why are they written in a form that makes it nearly impossible to comprehend unless you are already thoroughly educated about the topic?
The whole point of these journals is to inform and educate others, but how would that ever be feasible if the only people who are capable of digesting the information are individuals already knowledgeable about the subject? It defeats the whole purpose and creates a concentration of education within a specific group of people. I realize that these academic journals are meant to be sophisticated and refined, but you can still be both while being digestible to the general population.
The solution here is simple: Make research papers free and easier to read. Publishing in and creating more open access journals, freely available, digital, online information, and as well as creating resources that are easier to read, so that information can be consumed by a larger number of people, would benefit the public greatly. Even more, people can absorb the vast amounts of research and knowledge in the world, and therefore many more things can be accomplished with it. Imagine all the advancements in fields like science, math, technology, ethics, that could be made just because more people were able to access more academic journals.
There should be no barriers that prohibit anyone from utilizing first-rate educational materials. No one is more worthy of a better education than another, especially not because of something like their socioeconomic status. Academic journals should be free and easy to access for everyone, simple as that. Making the public pay for research does nothing but holds us back from making new discoveries and changing the world for the better.