“Paywalls are not just inconveniences — they impede an already disadvantaged effort on research.”

This is the first of a weekly series highlighting Open Access Button users from around the world, discussing their work, and sharing their stories. If you would like to participate, please email oabutton@gmail.com.

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Patricia San Jose, a graduate student and Senior Research Assistant at the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines.[/caption]

Hitting paywalls two to three times a day for most people this would be a frustration, but for Open Access Button user Patricia San Jose, it’s a daily reminder as to why the Open Access movement needs to gain momentum. San Jose generously took the time to sit down and answer some of our questions about her current research and how paywalls block information for those who need it most.

San Jose is a graduate student studying marine biology in the Philippines. She currently works as a Senior Research Assistant at the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines (UP MSI) where she is part of a research program on seaweeds. The UP Marine Science Institute is always improving itself and is the most prolific institute within the University of the Philippines system, but has few resources compared to other marine science and oceanography institutes around the world. “When you come from an institute of limited means, all you can do is work with what you are given,” San Jose explained. “Part of being resourceful is reading a lot of studies and adapting protocols that not only would best answer the research question at hand, but are also feasible with what the institute has. Paywalls are not just inconveniences — they impede an already disadvantaged effort on research.”

This disadvantage is oddly juxtaposed with the rich marine biodiversity in the Philippines that San Jose says isn’t taken advantage of by local researchers. “The Philippines is ‘the center of the center’ of marine biodiversity, at least according to a study by Carpenter and Springer in 2005, and with the richness that our waters have, you’d imagine that we, marine scientists, are all flocking down the coastal areas, studying this richness. Well, that is not the case.” San Jose sees hope to solving this problem with Open Access. “Open access, and open science, for that matter, may help tear down this ignorance, bringing the culture or research, and science, to a different light in a third-world country.”

San Jose has been working to combat paywalls. She has become an activist for the Open Access movement. She writes and tweets about the importance of having free or inexpensive access to academia and research. “In our country, using social media is one of the most rapid and effective ways to get people talking about certain issues,” says San Jose. In addition to spreading the word via social media, she also tracks each paywall she finds with Open Access Button. “I use the OA Button because Open Access is not an issue only in the so-called first world countries. It is an issues wherever research is done wherever science is done.” San Jose has yet to publish her research, but you can guarantee when she does, it will be Open Access.

We finally discussed with San Jose how she would like to see the publishing model change either in her country or globally. She acknowledged her frustration with current publishing models and trends explaining that she first began experiencing the difficulties of closed access publishing during her undergraduate years as her university had limited scientific journal subscriptions, but became fully aware of its impact when she started her research. “It began with a mere question of why some journals allow full access to their content for free, whereas others don’t,” she explained, “to an interest in the debates on open science and revolutionizing peer review. To be honest, not many people in our institute, even in the entire country perhaps, talk about Open Access or the need for movements such as open science. We just do our research, and hope that our study gets published on an ISI-listed journal.”

However, San Jose feels confident that the publishing system can fixed and that can best be done through activism and grassroots movements. “For now, I believe awareness is the most effective means to get people involved, and that is why I support efforts such as the OA Button. I think self-interest is too high a stake to tear down, and this is where the issues on the publishing system thrive. I cannot recommend a single, ultimate action that could eradicate the issues, but I think, for now, transparency is a good thing.”

Talking with Pat was inspiring and definitely opened our eyes to access in the Philippines. We look forward to seeing her promote Open Access in the future and cannot wait to be talking about her research. You can find Pat on Twitter at @patringsanjose and follow Open Access Button at @OA_Button. Be sure to download the Open Access Button at openaccessbutton.org and join researchers like Pat in reporting paywalls.