Brief period of open access noted at JSTOR

March 2, 2013

A curious occurrence was noted on the web's repository of academic journals, JSTOR. For a short period of time, open access was granted to the site, with all articles accessible without registration or login.

As daily visitor to JSTOR, I first noticed this anomaly at around 10pm on March 1st 2013 (local time UTC +11)

A search of JSTOR and the web revealed no formal announcement regarding a new open access trial. The only clue as to what may have been happening was the notification message indicating access was provided by Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University. A search of this Russian university's website (link) provided no information on a new trial or partnership with JSTOR to provide open access through its account.

Checking back after a few hours, it was noticed that JSTOR had reverted to its original "closed" state, its limited access Register and Read option again being available. Whether access was provided by JSTOR, or the intervention of a third party cannot yet be discerned.

JSTOR has featured prominently in the news in relation to the tragic suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz on January 11, 2013.  The digital archive has become a symbolic bastion of knowledge and limited access, with only the most wealthiest institutions enjoying full access to its content due to a tiered subscription system.

In March 2012, JSTOR launched its Register and Read model, which provided limited access to some of its content, provided users registered a free account with the service. This was in addition to its Early Journal Content scheme, which had opened access to public domain articles in 2011. The number of journals participating in Register and Read was reported as expanding in January 2013, with the addition of an extra 700 publications.

If any further infornation is released regarding this "open access anomaly" at JSTOR, updates will be logged at this post. Until then, I hope this post can serve to document this occurrence, which presently does not seem to have been reported elsewhere on the web. 

Please see references for some excellent articles exploring the JSTOR controversy and the role Aaron Swartz played in the open access movement.

Bergstein, B. Research archive JSTOR moves toward open access. MIT Technology Review. January 14 2013. link

Despite New Program Promising Open Access, JSTOR Prices Remain a Concern. Tadween Publishing Blog. January 22 2013. link

Fisher, J. Read This Academic Journal Article, But Prepare to Pay. The Atlantic. February 22 2011. link

Mckenna, L. Locked in the Ivory Tower. Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research. The Atlantic. January 20 2012. link

Scheiber, N. The inside story of why Aaron Swartz broke into MIT and JSTOR. The Italian retreat that radicalised the internet prodigy. New Republic. February 13 2013. link

Scheiber, N. So open it hurts. What the internet did to Aaron Swartz. New Republic. February 25 2013. link

Tilsley, A. Journal Archive Opens Up (Some). Inside Higher Ed. January 9 2013. link


JSTOR Support said...

The access some experienced was not a hack, but the result of a range of IP addresses being added to our list in error. The error was discovered and corrected early Friday morning.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the clarification JSTOR support.


Michael Savage said...

I'm ridiculously grateful for your flagging this. It makes me realise how the internet creates an even greater divide between professional academics and the merely interested. Academics with JSTOR access have journal articles always at their fingertips. I have to take a day out of my weekend and travel to the British Library to look something up. I've built up quite a decent library of art books, but my reading is one-sided. There are so many seminal articles that I haven't been able to read because access is prohibitively expensive. It effectively excludes me from the conversation because I just don't have the same reference points as those lucky people who are professionally engaged in art history and have institutional JSTOR access.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the comment Michael. The question of exclusion and access for independents, or even institutions who simply cannot afford a higher tier subscription is a challenging one. The register and read program has offset this somewhat, but only a little.

A subscription option may be viable for those who want to access content more regularly, not unlike the model used at Questia perhaps?

Kind regards

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