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Commercialism of scholarly publishing surprised students

Published on 25.10.2023
Tampere Universities
This week, 23-29 October, is International Open Access Week. To mark the week, the library's open science experts have put together some articles on open science topics. In this piece, the library’s interns Elli Ojala and Juuso Salin share their thoughts on open science.

Academic community  

The academic community and its culture may be foreign to many students starting their studies. A better understanding of how scientific information is produced and distributed is accumulated over the course of one’s academic journey. As an undergraduate, the personal experience has been that of practicality – the focus has been on academic writing and personal, task-based information retrieval. Understanding it as a broader entity has been succinct, and it feels like a deeper dive into topics such as the advancement of open science and everything that is part of it, has been more of a footnote on courses. 

When we were given a deeper insight into the processes surrounding scientific publication, we were in for a bit of a shock. Publicly financed scientifical information has great difficulty reaching the general public from behind paywalls. Our previous, more optimistic views of the freedom of publishing and sharing academic knowledge certainly took a hit. It did also, however, awaken a personal want to be part of advancing better and fairer practices.   

Open science in studies 

As previously said, open science has been mentioned over the course of our studies, for example in the information acquisition skills – courses, arranged by the library for 1st year students and thesis writers. It does however feel like there is a chasm between these courses in the undergraduate degree. As previously stated, the focus is more on accumulating substantive knowledge of one’s field than understanding the principles of scientific publications and all that is part of it.   

Writing a thesis amasses students practical research skills, and perhaps also a deeper dive into data management. Students' first personal contact with open access publishing is through publishing said thesis, but in the end how many students reflect on it as a part of open access publishing, or open science as a whole?   

During one's studies it is easy not to pay attention to open access, because through Tuni-id, all of the databases and e-material acquired by the library is so readily available. And with no insight into all of the backstage workings of making it available to students, open access matters are only noticed when they are not there: an interesting or necessary article is not available through the usual channels. 

In a situation like that, a question may arise: how could I access this article/journal? Another question that has arisen with us in a situation like that, is why. Why is our access withheld, what are the underlying reasons behind it?   

Internship experiences at Tampere university library  

We have been given answers and insight to those questions during our internship in the Tampere university library. Through this internship, we have been shown the level of open and available information needed for out higher education community to function, what concrete actions are taken for its upkeep and all other aspects, both internal and external, which are intertwined to open access publishing. The library works as an important support pillar for researchers and research and through that work makes it possible to open scientific information for the whole society to utilize. 

The task is in no way easy, as on the opposite side of open access are strong and ever increasing commercial and financial interests. A vast change in operational culture towards openness requires awareness, concrete action, political decision-making, and especially in the theme of this week: community.   

Happy Open Access Week! 

Authored by Elli Ojala and Juuso Salin, students in Information Studies at Tampere University