I knew this would happen eventually, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take for my not being enrolled at UNC to lead to losing access to adademic journal articles online. This week they cut me off. When I enter my user name and password it tells me “Authentication denied by Library Patron Database.” It’s a weird feeling.
One huge advantage of being affiliated with UNC for the past 8 years has been access to nearly any peer-reviewed journal article I needed. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I saw an article in a bibliography and wasn’t able to simply pull it up on the library website. So it’s a weird feeling to no longer be able to do that.
Right now I don’t have a huge need, since I have a backlog of things to read. I can get things I need with a little more effort. I can easily go to Portland State and pull up articles there. On the article I’m working on now I can have my coauthor pull things up if we need them. And so forth.
Explaining to people outside the academy how the whole thing works is often hard. No, I didn’t get paid for the article I spent many hours research, writing, and revising. No, the peer reviewers who spent lots of time helping make it better didn’t get paid either. Accessing it is really expensive, but most of the people who read those kinds of articles don’t pay individually, but have free access via their institutions (which pay a lot of money for that access). Even though I didn’t get paid for it, publishing in this weird system makes the difference in who gets jobs and who gets tenure.
If people outside want to read these articles, access is spotty. Many publishers allow authors to put their articles on their websites after a specified period of time. I did that with my published article. Amusingly, my forthcoming research note will be in a journal to which I will not have access now that I’m not at UNC.
What to do about this is an ongoing debate. Tax payers foot the bill for much of this research and then can’t read the results. On the other hand, publishing–administering the peer review process, copyediting, typesetting, etc.–costs money and that money needs to come from somewhere. I don’t have anything particularly new to add to that back-and-forth.
It’s just that now I’m outside the gated door looking in.