There has been a long-running debate within academia about the accessibility of the research that we conduct. It seems somewhat perverse that we, as academics, conduct studies and write up the results, peer review each other’s work, edit, and manage the whole submission process only to hand over the rights of the resulting articles to large publishing companies who charge us all for the privilege of reading our own work. We find ourselves in the bizarre predicament of having our research behind paywalls offering access only to those who are members of the right “club” of higher education institutions willing to pay exorbitant fees or those willing to pay twenty dollars or more for 24 hours of access. As fascinating as academic research can be, this grossly over-estimates people’s willingness to take a stab in the dark over an article that they haven’t even sampled beyond a 300-word abstract. This usually leads us to rely instead on pre-publication versions of our articles on university repositories, so that people might gain access to at least some version of the work that we have produced, although this is clearly not ideal. This is usually no more than an MS word document, lacking any of the style or formatting of the published version that appears in the actual journal.
It was a very nice surprise, therefore, to receive an email from the Journal of Management Inquiry informing me that our recent publication “Running Towards the Bullets: Moral Injury in Critical Care During the Covid-19 Pandemic” was being made open access i.e. the pay wall was being removed for everyone. Obviously, this is no solution to the wider structural issue outlined above, but it is a small victory that will hopefully help the article receive a wider audience. After all, the vast majority of the nurses whose experiences we document in the article will not have the credentials to get past a pay wall and neither will many others either from the world of practice or amongst the general public. If we are going to reach wider audiences with our research, normalizing open access through one means or another seems like a real priority for any kind of progressive government in the coming years.
On a personal note, this article being made open access was a wonderful surprise. As documented on this blog here and here, our research project into critical care nursing during the pandemic, was an incredibly personal and life changing project to be involved with. It not only enabled me to investigate an incredibly important subject with a brilliant team of researchers, it also allowed me to learn a huge amount about my partner’s profession and the difficulties she and her colleagues experienced during the pandemic and beyond. It helped me to understand and appreciate just how much some individuals will sacrifice in their roles and somewhat unavoidably in their private lives thereafter to care for other people. It helped me to see bravery, expertise and compassion to an extent that I have not even come close to witnessing before, that was both profoundly moving and humbling at the same time. This resulting output (along with others produced from the project) are especially important then as they help bring to life the experiences of the nurses that we talked to. It felt like an incredibly long time waiting for the articles to move through the notoriously slow publication process (I felt almost apologetic to the nurses at times) so to finally see them online in their proper format is a wonderful mixture of feelings of satisfaction and relief. Whilst we have no idea how extensively any article we write and publish will be read or cited, it is at least a comfort in this case that we could document the stories of these critical care nurses and ensure that their experiences are there to be read either now or by future generations. The full article is available here.