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Scientific research and dissemination of knowledge are key functions of the university. Traditionally, scientific knowledge is distributed through a process of peer-reviewed journals. Profit margins of commercial publishers of scientific journals are in excess of 30% compared with the profit margin of 12 – 15% for commercial magazines (Buranyi 2017[1]). From 1978 to 2014, the cost of academic textbooks has risen more than 800% which is more than triple the cost of inflation for the same period (Moules 2016[2]). In this section, we will reflect on and discuss the potential of open initiatives to widen affordable access to knowledge in a digital age.


The power of open access

Jack Andraka worked on a potential method for detecting pancreatic cancer at the age of 16, while still at high school. He conducted his award winning work through open access to scientific research. While his work was later refuted by members of the medical research community, this example illustrates the potential power of open access to research outputs.

web resources

Stimulus resources

Scan one of the resources from each of the sub-sections below to familiarise yourself with the contemporary challenges of sharing knowledge in a digital age.
Rising costs of access to scientific journals

Sci-Hub is a pirate website that provides access to academic papers bypassing the publisher paywalls.

Learning and the law in a digital age


Forum - Why open matters for learning in a digital age

Join the discussion on why open matters for you in the context of in a digital age. This is an introductory forum for us to get to know each other a little better by sharing thoughts on what we think about the concept of “open” in education.

Think about your own context with reference to the current state of learning in a digital age.

  • Does open matter for you personally? Share your reasons why open does or doesn’t matter for you.
  • What can we learn from the current state of affairs regarding access to scholarly knowledge? What do you recommend for the future?


  1. Buranyi, S. (2017, June 27). Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? The Guardian.
  2. Moules, J. (2016, May 15). Rising price of textbooks reaches a tipping point