I’m not going to feel guilty about not reading your closed-access paper

There are lots of times that I find a reference or a link to a paper that looks like it could have something to do with a topic that I’m researching. If there is a readily-available version of the paper, then I read it. If it is in a closed-access journal, then I may check to see if I have access through my university library. Especially for recent or on-line first papers, the answer is often no.

At this point, I could request a copy by interlibrary loan or e-mail the author to ask for a copy. Sometimes I do these things, but only sometimes. There isn’t time to chase down copies of every possibly-relevant paper. So there are papers I never read that would be useful if I did look at them.

I used to feel guilty about this, but I’ve decided that I’m over it.

I put PDFs of my forthcoming papers on my website, so that people who are interested might read them. I have done this for as long as I have had forthcoming papers. People who want the officially published version with citeable page numbers may need access to the journal, but people who just want to know what I say in the paper can find it on my website. It’s only a search and a click away. In open access terminology this is Green OA.

Too many academics don’t openly share their papers in this way. Some have reasons, and some just don’t think to do it. Regardless, it is a mistake to let an article that took time and attention to write be typeset in an academic sepulchre where it exists to the world as little more than a title and line on your CV. The prospect of furthering the scholarly conversation— of having readers— is the only sensible reason to be writing.

I will try to read papers that are relevant to the topic I’m writing about. I won’t deliberately ignore anyone’s work. But if somebody’s paper is in a journal that I don’t have access to and they haven’t shared a copy on their website or in a public archive, it’s not down to me if I don’t see it or read it.

One thought on “I’m not going to feel guilty about not reading your closed-access paper”

  1. Besides granting free access to academic research, perhaps the most interesting feature of (the illegal) sci-hub website is its extreme ease of use. Even when I have access to a paper, it is easier to just copy the DOI from PhilPapers and directly download the paper from sci-hub than to navigate to the journal, sign in, and then download, or search out the author’s homepage.

    If you don’t feel bad about not reading someone’s paywalled work, then don’t feel bad about bypassing the publishers that have created this problem in the first place.

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