ArXiv: 20 Years of Leveling the Research Playing Field

Although the open education movement is typically perceived as fairly new, one journal has been promoting free access to information for decades. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, arXiv shares the latest scientific information by e-printing hundreds of thousands of pre-publication articles in subjects like physics, quantitative biology and computer science.

open access free journal arXiv

High Cost Prohibits Access to Information

Whether you're a neurobiologist or a computer engineer, gaining access to the latest research can be essential to staying current in your field. By sharing information, researchers are able to help each other solve problems more efficiently and achieve innovative breakthroughs.

But this dialogue is often slowed down by the publication process. In an effort to lay claim to coming first to a discovery, as well as gain citations that are highly valuable in the publish-or-perish world of academia, many scientists guard information closely until it's published in a peer reviewed journal. While the process of peer review and verification that is promoted by these publications is important, it often creates a significant time lapse.

Even more problematic is the prohibitive cost of most scientific journals. Nature, for example, costs almost $200 per year for a subscription. Furthermore, if you want access to multiple journals through a large database like JSTOR, you'll either have to pay per article or go through a subscribing institution like a college or university. And what does it cost for an organization to subscribe to JSTOR? In a recent lawsuit against a scholar who downloaded and shared millions of documents from the JSTOR library, the company estimated that the annual subscription fee for a large research university is around $50,000.

Opening the Door

Between the slow, guarded process of publication and the high cost of access, the traditional scientific journal system can stifle innovation. But not all researchers buy into this model. Twenty years ago, physicist Paul Ginsparg set out to remove these restrictions and open the information sharing process.

In an August 2011 article published, ironically, in Nature, and reprinted in part by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ginsparg recalls starting arXiv to 'level the playing field.' In 1991, he launched the site in order to give scientists a place to electronically print articles ahead of traditional publication. These articles haven't gone through the traditional peer review process, so they're not the final word on any research, but they offer researchers - and home learners - a chance to see what's new and apply the latest ideas to their own projects.

The site originally focused only on physics. Although that's still its largest subject, today arXiv also offers articles on math, computer science, non-linear science, quantitative biology, statistics and even quantitative finance. According to The Chronicle, the site gets about 75,000 new 'pre-print' articles per year, and currently holds roughly 700,000 texts. And after 20 years in business, the site has a huge user base, with 400,000 people downloading full-text articles each week.

Of course, the project costs money to keep it going. It's currently hosted and funded by the Cornell University Library, but the site's organizers are working on a new business plan designed to help the project stay afloat. They're requesting voluntary contributions from organizations that use the site heavily, and, as Ginsparg gets ready to set down, exploring a transition to a 'collaboratively governed, community-supported resource.'

Many academics run afoul of copyright law when trying to share information. Learn more about the future of fair use in the classroom.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Ashford University

    Ashford University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Ashford University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Seton Hall University

    Seton Hall University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Seton Hall University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Trident University

    Trident University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Trident University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Full Sail University

    Full Sail University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Full Sail University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Tulane University

    Tulane University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Tulane University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. Next »