Last Friday night, I watched the new documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship. If you’re involved in research, scholarly communication, or even just concerned with the availability of knowledge (especially as it results from public funding), then I recommend watching this film. You can easily stream it and, in-line with its subject matter, it will not cost you anything.
Paywall’s agenda clearly aims toward the positive and potentially transformative aspects of the open access movement. For people already familiar with open access issues and the accessibility problems posed by the biggest academic publishers’ old models, the film’s content may not be news. Even so, it offers a thought-provoking variety of perspectives, examples, and arguments that make it worth watching.
For people that have not had much opportunity to learn about what happens to a lot of research once it’s published or how the industry works (the relationships involving universities, libraries, and publishers) I imagine this film will be a big eye-opener.
It addresses public funding models for research, business models of the major players in the publishing industry, the needs not just of scholars but of anyone vested in learning from new research. They had a number of people speak about their struggles in regions of the world that do not have the means to pay publishers’ high prices and how that affected their ability to access publications. I was interested to see how concretely that lack-of-access impacted the research work that those people engaged in and I would have been curious to hear more from those voices.
The film also raised important concerns that libraries regularly face and I thought, hit on some thorny issues that we need to keep working at–particularly in how/what we accept in contracts with these publishers.