Paywall: the Movie – A Conversation on Open Access

This is a guest blog by the amazing Kaylen Dwyer, a GA in Scholarly and Communication Publishing

Logo for Paywall movie

Help us celebrate Open Access Week by joining us for a free screening of Paywall: The Movie on October 24th at the Independent Media Center from 7 – 9 pm hosted by the Scholarly Communication and Publishing Unit at the University of Illinois Library. The screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by Sara Benson, the Copyright Librarian, with panelists Sheldon Jacobson, Andrew Suarez, David Rivier, and Maria Bonn.

Full information about the event is available at this web address!

Paywall’s director, Jason Schmitt, estimates that scholarly publishing is a US $25.2-billion-a-year industry, a figure bolstered by soaring profit margins of 33% (compared to Walmart’s 3%, as cited by the filmmaker). This for-profit publishing model is further complicated by the fact that while most academic research is funded by the public, the articles remain behind expensive paywalls.

Then, one minute and 58 seconds into the documentary, viewers are hit with a paywall that asks them to pay $39.95 to continue watching. Jarring and unexpected, a paywall in a documentary still irritates. Yet for many of us, the paywalls we encounter for articles are just part of the routine that says, “Find another way.”

Schmitt says, “This profit has an implication—it limits amount of individuals around the globe who can solve the world’s most complex problems, and that affects us all.” The film specifically looks at how paywalls impact the global south, as a 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) survey found that 56% of research institutions in low-income countries did not have any subscriptions to international scientific journals.

In response to his hopes for what Paywall will accomplish, Schmitt says, “Open access is important to accelerate innovation and growth in a worldwide community of scholars, scientists and practitioners…I feel this documentary could play a role in exciting a worldwide conversation about access to scholarship in a digital age.”

We look forward to the screening and we hope you will join us next Wednesday at the Independent Media Center!

About the Panelists:

Sheldon Jacobson is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, applying research and advanced analytics to address societal issues facing our nation. His recent article, “Push Versus Pull,” in Communications of the ACM looks at some of the problems with open access publishing.

Andrew Suarez is an associate professor of Animal Biology at U of I, focusing on the social organization and developmental plasticity of insects to address the fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, and behavior. His article, “The Fallacy of Open Access,” in the Chronicle of Higher Education addresses solutions we should be seeking in addition to open access publishing.

David Rivier, associate professor of cell and developmental biology at U of I, brings expertise in bioinformatics and scholarly publishing within the sciences.

Maria Bonn, an associate professor at the ISchool, previously served as the associate university librarian for publishing at the University of Michigan Library and was responsible for initiatives in publishing and scholarly communication. Her research remains focused in that area as well as networked communication and the economics of information. Among her contributions to the open access conversation are, “Free exchange of ideas: Experimenting with the open access monograph” (College and Research Library News, 2010) and “Maximizing the benefits of open access: Strategies for enhancing the discovery of open access content” (College and Research Library News, 2015).

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