I try to write an essay, every single academic article offered by Google Scholar is paywalled. I burst out into the Beauty and the Beast song to console my aching heart. Tale as old as time… I am only half-joking. I don’t burst into songs every time. However, this whole academia being paywalled to death is a tale as old as time that every student has had to deal with at some point in their academic careers. Research articles are routinely placed behind paywalls that are inaccessible to most students, and, quite frankly, it’s immoral.
There, I said it. I know there are several arguments to be made for paywalls or whatever, but none that I particularly care about when I think about knowledge being hidden from the world (and if you’re one of those elitists that don’t care for the world, then at least think about the new generation of academics). In theory, the researchers’ simplest job is to bring new knowledge into their fields. If you bring about new knowledge to humankind, especially when said knowledge can better anyone’s condition, it is immoral to hide it. Yes, yes, other academics and anyone with the financial means to buy the work can access it, but the question of immorality remains.
It remains, for how can anyone who holds information that could be used to better the condition of humankind defend the withholding of truths from the general public? You might not believe that a nineteen-year-old not being able to write an IP paper because scientific knowledge has been concealed by scientists behind unnecessarily complicated, pretentious language and sums of money not many students can afford, is important. However, I believe there is something truly alarming about the general public, for whom academia has been made so inaccessible for centuries, and the working class, who perhaps don’t have the means to allocate a part of their already unfairly low paychecks to unblocking research, not being able to access knowledge about the world, society or just about anything.
There’s truly something profoundly disturbing about knowledge, something that should be universal, something that should be distributed fairly in order to shrink the gaps of inequality and smash through the cycle of elitism, being so out of reach to the average person that only wants to pass their class or enrich their lives. I know this system of money is built purposefully, that it is beneficial for the ruling classes to keep John and Jane Doe ignorant (or whatever), but perhaps it is time for us to realize the implications of all this research being so out of reach. It goes beyond my inability to write a stupid paper. It is so much more.
By Natalia Ibanez