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Students have an especially large stake in the debate about access to research. Expanding access will pay great dividends to students in a variety of ways:
A complete education: students in any discipline need access to the latest research to have a complete education in their field of study and hit the ground running after graduation. Limited access to research makes students settle for the information that is available rather than that which is most relevant. Open Access can ensure students get the best possible education and are not artificially limited by the selection of scholarly journals their campuses are able to provide.
If your professors can’t read it, they can’t teach it: when professors can’t access the most recent research, they are deprived of the opportunity to bring that material into the classroom. With science advancing at an ever-increasing pace, it’s crucial that professors have access to cutting-edge research, so students’ education isn’t outdated before they even finish a course.
Research for papers: it’s a familiar story; you’re writing a paper for class and you need to cite articles from peer-reviewed journals. Eventually, you find an article that looks good — maybe via a search engine, a footnote from another source, or a reference in an index. You search the Web for the full text, but you can’t get past the abstract. You look on your library’s Web site but they don’t have a subscription. You’re stuck. Maybe that article would have been a major source for your work — you’ll never know. You don’t have access. Open Access changes that. No more worrying about whether you’re on the campus network or if your library has a subscription. If you’re online, you have access, period — anywhere in the world.
The current system puts students from smaller schools at a disadvantage: due to the staggering price of journal subscriptions, not even the largest, most well-funded institutions can provide their students with the complete scholarly record. Students at smaller or less well-funded colleges and universities must make do with their fraction of access their library can afford. Students at community colleges, who are a significant portion of students in higher education, suffer even more severely.
Researching beyond the degree: many students, especially on the graduate level, pursue degrees in order to become qualified researchers. Whether they become professors, doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs, they will continuously rely on access to research in order to make an impact in their respective field. Yet, students' access to journals expires along with their library card at graduation. If they take a job at another university, that institution may have a very different level of access than what they need, and if they take a job outside of the university setting, they will no longer have the library to provide them any access to journals.
Better visibility and higher impact for your scholarship: Studies have shown a significant increase in citations when articles are made openly available. Below is a chart from a recent summary analysis that shows the Open Access citation advantage in different fields
Avoiding duplication: no researcher wants to waste time and money conducting a study if they know it has been attempted elsewhere. But, duplication of effort is all-too-possible when researchers can’t effectively communicate with one another and make results known to others in their field and beyond.
Research is useless if it’s not shared: even the best research is ineffectual if others aren’t able to read and build on it. When price barriers keep articles locked away, science cannot achieve its full potential.
Text mining: today millions of articles are published every year, so many that a researcher could only hope to read a small subset of all articles in a given field. Text mining could be very beneficial by giving researchers an over-arching view of a particular field and uncovering trends and connections within their own field and between seemingly unrelated fields that no human researcher could discern. However, when many articles are inaccessible due to subscription barriers or being posted in non computer-readable formats, these tools cannot reach their true potential.