Open Access

Understanding Open Access

As with the growth of technology and digitisation, individuals and organisations are increasingly publishing their works online as open access; online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access and restrictions on use. (Wikipedia, 2016)


Infographic on Open Access (

A content producer making their materials freely available online can gain from many advantages that come with the benefits of digitization, however, some might argue of the setbacks to this approach. Publishing material freely online is mainly advantageous to:



MOOC Infographic (

OERs and MOOCs such as Khan Academy and Udacity have led content producers i.e. educators to collaborate among themselves in developing effective teaching styles and discovering new resources, thus enhancing their skills and knowledge as professional educators.


Publishing academic articles freely online allow other students/researchers to readily access them, in which the articles would then be cited and referenced, building upon their profile and reputation.


Photographers who publish their work on Flickr under a creative commons license, or on copyright-free sites such as Pexels and Pixabay for photography, enable others to use and reproduce their photos freely, garnering publicity and extending audience reach.


Behance Statistics as at 15-11-2016 (

Works published by designers publicly on sites like Behance and Dribbble – while not necessarily copyright-free – receive views from a large public audience. (Scaglione, 2012) This can also lead to earning potential clients.

Growing Enterprises


3D Printing Forecast (

3D printing, a relatively new technology in the growth stage of its product life-cycle (Lomas, 2013), benefits from open access sites like Thingiverse and GrabCAD; a community where mostly engineering students and professionals openly share CAD (Computer Aided Design) files of simple to complex objects. This allows anybody without formal engineering background to download the files and print them directly on their 3d printers, expanding the target market of 3D printing from professionals to hobbyists.

However, publishing materials freely available online has its disadvantages as well.

A key disadvantage lies with funding. The content produced on these sites requires time and money prior to publishing them, as well as the cost of running the website and domain. Hence, many of these sites are either funded by governments or through donations, and those that run out of funds are prone to becoming obsolete or shutting down.

Other disadvantages include the lack of quality control over the content produced, improper use of intellectual property, and increased competition from other content producers.


Self-made Infographic on the Disadvantages of Open Access

Despite the disadvantages, as a content producer who publishes my work online as well, I believe the advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Not only can published content receive overwhelming publicity, it can also help others on the receiving end. Having been students yourselves, I’m sure you’d agree the availability of freely accessible material online is extremely helpful.

[437 words excluding citations & captions]

List of References:

Columbus, L. (2015) 2015 roundup of 3D printing market forecasts and estimates. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Creative Commons, About The Licenses. Available at: (Accessed: 16 November 2016).

Creative Commons Wiki (2016) What is OER? Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Geib, A. (2013) Advantages and disadvantages of open access. Available at: (Accessed: 16 November 2016).

Lomas, N. (2013) The much-hyped 3D printer market is entering A new growth phase, says Gartner. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Scaglione, J. (2012) Web designers are using the Behance network to increase visibility. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016). (2015) MOOCs: Expanding the scope of organizational learning Infographic – e-learning Infographics. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Massive open online course’, in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Wikipedia (2016) ‘Open access’, in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

10 thoughts on “Open Access

  1. reneeyong says:

    Hello Shafiq,

    You stated that sites providing freely available content might be obsolete without funding. I think a solution to that would be the widespread manipulation of empty spaces for advertising nowadays. Even webpages like Forbes deny entry to users if their AdBlocker extension is enabled. So, do you think funding is still a key setback for content producers in publishing their work?

    Also, as a content producer yourself, how do you think people perceive value in your work if it’s available so freely on those sites you mentioned? For instance, I quote an example of an LA artist who got her designs ripped off by Zara. On the grounds of her being an indie artist while Zara, a major corporation, she had practically no case. How would you react, if something similar happened to you? And if placated with money, would you relent or fight for your rights? Shall lesser-known artists be wary, then?


    1. Shafiq Mazlan says:

      Hi Renee,

      Thanks for the comment! With regards to your first question, you’re right in saying that these sites could use advertisements as a source of funds to maintain the page, however, while this may seem feasible, one will only be able to earn a substantial amount from advertisements if the website has substantial traffic. This link breaks down how much traffic is needed to make $100,000 with Google AdSense; it’s not that easy, especially for new and unestablished websites.

      As for the case of Tuesday Bassen, I believe this scenario was a double-edged sword. While it was frustrating that she was powerless against the giant company who was guilty of intellectual property theft, this saga has garnered her work much more publicity than she originally could have, which has definitely brought her more attention and potential customers across the world. While this would not be the case all the time, I believe that for someone who is initially building their career online, especially creatives, publishing their work freely online would be a necessary compromise, as publishing their work behind a paywall would not prove to be effective for someone who isn’t well-known. In this case, one could probably beef up their copyright terms and licences, and opt to disable right-clicks on the published works in their website to deter unlawful copy-pasting.

      I hope I’ve answered your queries well, and thank you for the feedback.



  2. inisaacsmind says:

    Hello Shafiq, I must say your post was an interesting insight into the issue of open access and I understand that we both have common ground in looking to open access as an appealing future.

    Nevertheless, as I thought more and compared the advantages and disadvantages of open access from a content creator’s point of view, I realised that while making your content freely accessible in the beginning of your career as a strategy to maximise visibility is appealing, benefits from it may only be experienced in the long term. ( Lack of initial payment, prestige etc.)

    In the case of an academic, higher hits does not have to translate into higher citation rate. (, 2016) This case could also be true to content producers in other fields.
    Do you feel that open access is a course to take for just the initial part of your online career as a content producer to build a presence or should it be considered as a more permanent method of distributing content?


    1. Shafiq Mazlan says:

      Hi Isaac,

      Thanks for the comment! I would agree with you that the benefits of making one’s content freely available online might only be experienced in the long term, however I would think that this is a necessary compromise someone who’s just starting his career online would have to take, more so for creatives. It would be more effective for a new artist to publish his works openly online than to do so behind a paywall.

      As with regards to your second question, personally I would think that this depends on the field of work that one is in. For instance, it would make sense for a budding book writer to initially release his stories freely online to garner attention and publicity, and upon reaching substantial fame and reputation, he could publish his stories behind a paywall in order to earn a profit. However, as for a creative such as a graphic designer, it would make no sense for one to publish his work behind a paywall where an interested client would have to pay just to see examples of his work. Therefore, I would say that there is no one single correct approach to this, as different approaches work differently for different individuals.

      Thank you for your feedback,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. klarissacjj says:

    Hey Shafiq,

    I really like how you viewed this issue through 4 perspectives – educators, students/researchers, creatives and growing enterprises. It broadens the view of how most of us are involved in different aspects.

    You mentioned that one of the disadvantages of open access is the lack of quality control. I too agree that it would be the deficit of quality in the content posted. While doing my research, I chanced upon a case whereby a reporter published hundreds of open access journals with fake papers.
    As a student, I am concerned with obtaining credible sources of information through online platforms as it is a pivotal role in our learning process. Even though it can be easily accessed, the articles which we cite and reference may not trusted. Is there any way we students can tackle this issue and ensure the quality of these free materials?

    I’ve gotten great takeaways from your post. Thanks for the good read!


    1. Shafiq Mazlan says:

      Hi Klarissa,

      Thanks for the comment! With regards to your question on ensuring the quality of the free materials online, I believe that as students, firstly it is our duty to analyse the credibility of any given content before using them as valid references. One should not take any academic journals at face value, as with the dangers of the fake papers that you’ve mentioned, or pseudo-academic predatory publishers.

      I’ve found this video helpful in educating individuals on how to spot bogus articles by predatory publishers, and I hope this will help you too. Video link:

      Thank you for your feedback Klarissa,


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