Tear Down the (Pay)Wall

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Tear Down the (Pay)Wall

Anabell Xu, Staff Writer

Walls, walls, walls. Walls are an integral part of what it means to be American. President Trump’s border wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” the Great Wall of China, Wall Street, WALL-E, firewalls, the emotional walls we construct to prevent people from knowing our true thoughts, heck, the glass ceiling is just a horizontal wall made of glass. There are three guarantees in life: taxes, death, and walls.

There are metaphorical walls, and then there are actual walls. There are walls made of stone, walls made of poorly constructed promises, and walls that don’t exist. And the worst walls of all: paywalls.

I have an intense hatred of paywalls, especially those in the scientific community. It seems hugely ironic that in the age of information, most of the credible, believable information is barred off from everyone who doesn’t have ready access to $50 that they’re willing to bet on a paper that sounds interesting but may ultimately end up useless. Paywalls in the scientific community often result in people relying on the nearest pop-website article for information, which often have questionable sources.

And yeah, I recognize that scientists and researchers need money to survive. But that speaks to the rather poor salaries that researchers have in comparison to the amount of work that they do—the grant you receive is for research, not food. Researchers should definitely be paid more for the contributions they make to society. It’s unfortunate because scientists are discovering new things every day, but it’s not accessible to all. That’s the unfortunate truth of life.

College students need to cite credible studies in their papers. PhD students need to cite credible studies in their papers. High school students need to cite credible studies in their papers. Information needs to be widely accessible to all, not for students’ studies, but also for education as a whole.

When information is restricted, you get things like the anti-vaxxer campaign: where parents who get most of their information from Facebook refuse to vaccinate their kids, and BOOM there’s a measles outbreak in Washington. How much easier would it be to prove to people that no, vaccines don’t cause autism, by being able to provide them with the hundreds of studies that are currently paywalled?

Good scientific journalism requires credible scientific backgrounds, and if scientific studies are made more accessible it is not only easier to debunk false claims, but support true ones. So tear down that paywall, Mr. Scientific Community, and allow people to access that crucial information.