We are in the middle of Open Access Week, now in its ninth year. The goal remains the same as ever: to increase support of the idea that the publications which record scholarly research should be completely open to all interested readers, immediately at the time of publication. Although open access publishing has made great strides over the last 10-15 years, the subscription/license model remains the dominant mode of providing academic research. (That link covers STM literature in particular, but the point about subscriptions and licenses holds across all academic disciplines.)
This year's particular Open Access Week theme is "putting open in action," or taking concrete steps to make scholarly research more open. The idea is to encourage small, tangible and achievable steps that will cumulatively lead to a greater share of scholarship being open immediately. Some of these ideas: that researchers commit to sending one of their manuscripts to an open access journal next year, or that researchers commit to discussing open access at one of their lab or department meeting. The idea here is for peer-to-peer encouragement of researchers to consider open access publication can be a wise career move.
At first blush it seems obvious that open publication would be a wise career move. If everyone can read an article or monograph, that work is likely to have more readers than if it is stuck behind a "pay wall." Assuming that writers write to be read, that can only be a good thing.
Alas, academic writers only really need to be read by the people in their fields. And the people in their fields do not need to worry about the pay wall because their librarians are paying the bills. The bottom line is that academic authors are writing for prestige rather than wide reach, and most of the prestigious journals still require a subscription or license. As long as this is so, open access will remain a partially realized dream.
So the call to discuss open access at lab/department meetings is a grassroots effort to make openness prestigious. If that happens, and only then, will complete and immediate open access be a reality.