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Academic Integrity and the Rise of Open Access Repositories

The Turnitin Difference

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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Access supports egalitarian learning. At Turnitin, we’re all for equity within the classroom and beyond.

Open access repositories are essentially an open library, offering information and access for all. The research materials from myriad universities and labs are, because of these open libraries, read more widely than ever, inviting people from all walks of life without access to research libraries to participate in the intellectual exchange of ideas.

Sounds ideal, right?

Open Access Repositories make research and academic conversation available to anyone who wishes to engage in intellectual discourse. The earliest open access journals, dubbed “free online scholarship,” came into existence in the 1980s and 1990s. With the formation of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2002, these open libraries have only continued to increase. To date, there are over 2,000 free repositories.

To boot, this access can be had for very low or zero cost, whereas institutional subscriptions to a print journal can range from $5,000 to $600,000 per year, according to These subscriptions present an understandable burden to library operating costs and hinder egalitarian access to the ideas within.

That’s a huge burden to university libraries, let alone high schools and non-research libraries, to shoulder.

In a post called “The Crusade for Open Access, and What the Library is Doing to Help, Explained,” Virgie Hoban makes clear the financial burden of print journal subscriptions. She quotes Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, UC Berkeley’s university librarian as saying, “Currently, the UC, through the California Digital Library, pays about $40 million for a package of journal licenses on behalf of its 10 campuses.”

While the concept is ideal, open access isn’t without controversy. Open access repositories compete with for-profit journals, continues Hoban, “For-profit journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science have built up a sort of Ivy League reputation. Open access journals, on the other hand, compete with a sea of online journals of varying quality, causing confusion among many academics. Most open access journals go through peer review and editorial processes like any other journal.”

Academia is slow to change—and while a researcher may have to sign away copyright to a prestigious for-profit journal, they would likely have to pay a submission fee into an open access repository. Right now, most open access journals operate by charging publication costs up front to the writer/researcher, which isn’t a perfect model. Someone is still paying for the information.

Beyond profit, there are other points of contention too—such as whether publicly funded research should be publicly available, and to what extent. There’s opposition to OAR voiced in criticism of its peer review process and content reliability.

But here’s the thing: whatever the argument, open access repositories are here to stay.

New scholarship is dependent on research and building on existing research. New scholarship shouldn’t be exclusive. And innovation shouldn’t be hindered. Open access promotes transparency, collaboration, and inclusion—all things that increase innovation.

As we move forward, we have to talk about not whether open access repositories should exist, but rather how they exist within the ecosystem of our institutions and our classrooms. And most pertinent to educators: how these resources are used by our students.

With increased access, comes great responsibility. With so much documentation at hand, ideas and quotations are at risk of being plagiarized. And with that risk comes teaching opportunities to uphold academic integrity and citations.

At Turnitin, we have partnerships with both open access journals and publishers, papers of which we have in our content database. And we have the capability to check against all resources against our content database. Because we acknowledge the value of all resources and the reasons why both open access repositories and publishers should exist, we want to ensure that teachers can uphold citation and acknowledgment of these resources.

Want to understand the Turnitin Difference? Learn more about our Content Database.