Open access journal

Open access journal

Open access journals are scholarly journals that are available online to the reader "without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself."[1][2] Some are subsidized, and some require payment on behalf of the author. Subsidized journals are financed by an academic institution or a government information center; those requiring payment are typically financed by money made available to researchers for the purpose from a public or private funding agency, as part of a research grant. There have also been several modifications of open access journals that have considerably different natures: hybrid open access journals and delayed open access journals.

Open access journals (sometimes called the "gold road to open access") are one of the two general methods for providing open access. The other one (sometimes called the "green road") is self-archiving in a repository. The publisher of an open access journal is known as an "open access publisher", and the process, "open access publishing".

In successively looser senses, open access journals may be considered to be:

  • Journals entirely open access
  • Journals with research articles open access (hybrid open access journals)
  • Journals with some research articles open access (hybrid open access journals)
  • Journals with some articles open access and the other delayed access
  • Journals with delayed open access (delayed open access journals)
  • Journals permitting self-archiving of articles


Financing open access journals

Open access journals divide into those that charge publication fees and those that do not.

Fee-based open access journals

Fee-based open access journals require payment on behalf of the author. The money might come from the author but more often comes from the author's research grant or employer. In cases of economic hardship, many journals will waive all or part of the fee. (This generally includes instances where the authors come from a less developed country). Journals charging publication fees normally take various steps to ensure that editors conducting peer review do not know whether authors have requested, or been granted, fee waivers, or to ensure that every paper is approved by an independent editor with no financial stake in the journal.

No-fee open access journals

No-fee open access journals use a variety of business models. As summarized by Peter Suber:[3] "Some no-fee OA journals have direct or indirect subsidies from institutions like universities, laboratories, research centers, libraries, hospitals, museums, learned societies, foundations, or government agencies. Some have revenue from a separate line of non-OA publications. Some have revenue from advertising, auxiliary services, membership dues, endowments, reprints, or a print or premium edition. Some rely, more than other journals, on volunteerism. Some undoubtedly use a combination of these means."

For more detail, see the list of OA journal business models from the Open Access Directory.


Open access is the subject of much discussion amongst academics, librarians, university administrators, government official, commercial publishers, and learned society publishers. There is substantial disagreement about the concept of open access, along with much debate and discussion about the economics of funding an open access scholarly communications system.

Reactions of existing publishers to open access journal publishing have ranged from moving with enthusiasm to a new open access business model, to experiments with providing as much free or open access as possible, to active lobbying against open access proposals.[4] There are many new publishers starting up as open access publishers, with the Public Library of Science being the best-known example.


Advocates believe the primary advantage of open access is that the content is available to users everywhere regardless of affiliation with a subscribing library. This is intended to benefit:

  • Authors: of such articles, who will see their papers more read, more cited, and better integrated into the structure of science[5]
  • Academic readers: in general at institutions that cannot afford the journal, or where the journal is out of scope
  • Researchers: at smaller institutions, where their library cannot afford the journal
  • Readers: in general, who may be interested in the subject matter
  • The general public: who will have the opportunity to see what scientific research is about
  • Taxpayers: who will see the results of the research they pay for
  • Patients: and those caring for them, who will be able to keep abreast of medical research


There are a number of objections:

  • Open access is unnecessary
  • Open access is too impractical to implement
  • Many fields of research have few or no good open access journals[6]
  • The author-pays model obstructs free and open exchange of scientific results[7][8]

Opponents of the open access model assert that the pay-for-access model is necessary to ensure that the publisher is adequately compensated for their work. Scholarly journal publishers that support pay-for-access claim that the "gatekeeper" role they play, maintaining a scholarly reputation, arranging for peer review, and editing and indexing articles, require economic resources that are not supplied under an open access model. The cost of paper publication may also make open access to paper copies infeasible. Opponents claim that open access is not necessary to ensure fair access to developing nations; differential pricing, or financial aid from developed countries or institutions can make access to proprietary journals affordable.[9]

Pros and cons of variants

The primary advantage of open access journals is that the entire content is available to users everywhere regardless of affiliation with a subscribing library. In contrast, with self-archiving, only some of the journal articles are available, and it is not possible for the reader to know which they might be.

The main motivation for most authors to publish in an open access journal is increased visibility and ultimately a citation advantage. Research citations of articles in a hybrid open access journal has shown that open access articles are cited more frequently or earlier than non-Open Access articles.[10]

In the case of fee-based open-access journals, authors either need to have a sponsor (such as a funder or employer) to pay on their behalf, or personally pay the publication fee.

Current problems and projects

Identifying open access journals and the articles in them

There are several major directories of open access journals, most notably: Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and Open J-Gate.

Each has its own special standards for what journals are included.

Articles in the major open access journals are included in the standard bibliographic databases for their subject, such as PubMed. Those established long enough to have an impact factor, and otherwise qualified, are in Web of Science and Scopus. DOAJ includes indexing for the individual articles in some but not all of the many journals it includes.

Major projects to provide open access journals

Pioneers in open access publishing in the biomedical domain were journals like the BMJ, Journal of Medical Internet Research, and Medscape, who were created or made their content freely accessible in the late 90s.[11] BioMed Central, a for-profit publisher with now dozens of open access journals, published its first article in the year 2000.[12] The Public Library of Science launched its first open-access journal, PLoS Biology in 2003, PLoS Medicine in 2004, and PLoS ONE in 2006.[12]


Many journals have been subsidized ever since the beginnings of scientific journals. It is common for those countries with developing higher educational and research facilities to subsidize the publication of the nation's scientific and academic researchers, and even to provide for others to publish in such journals, to build up the prestige of these journals and their visibility. Such subsidies have sometimes been partial, to reduce the subscription price, or total, for those readers in the respective countries, but are now often universal.

The first digital-only, free journals (eventually to be called "open access journals") were published on the Internet in the late 1980s.[citation needed] Among them was Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Postmodern Culture, Psycoloquy, and The Public-Access Computer Systems Review.

In 1998, one of the first open access journals in medicine, the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR)[13] was created, publishing its first issue in 1999. One of the more unique models is utilized by the Journal of Surgical Radiology, which uses the net profits from external revenue to provide compensation to the editors for their continuing efforts.[14]

One of the very first online journals, GeoLogic, TerraNova,[15] was published by Paul Browning and started in 1989. It was not a discrete journal but an electronic section of TerraNova. Open access stopped in 1997 due to a change in the policy of the editors (EUG) and publishing house (Blackwell).

See also


  1. ^ Open Access Overview
  2. ^ Budapest Open Access Initiative
  3. ^ Suber, Peter (November 2, 2006). "No-fee open-access journals". SPARC Open Access Newsletter. 
  4. ^ Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (article on Sourcewatch about an anti-open access lobbying organization)
  5. ^ Antelman, K. (2004). "Do open access articles have a greater research impact?". College & Research Libraries News 65 (5): 372–382. 
  6. ^ Vogel, G. Quandary: Scientists Prefer Reading Over Publishing 'Open Access' Papers. Science Online January 14, 2011.
  7. ^ Raghavendra Gadagkar, Open-access more harm than good in developing world, Nature 453 (2008) 450. doi:10.1038/453450c
  8. ^ DCLnews editorial, Scientific literature: Who should pay - author or subscriber?.
  9. ^ [1] PRISM
  10. ^ Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles
  11. ^ The Open Access Advantage, Journal of Medical Internet Research
  12. ^ a b Timeline
  13. ^ The Journal of Medical Internet Research
  14. ^ Journal of Surgical Radiology
  15. ^ TerraNova

Further reading

External links

Multidisciplinary lists of open access journals

Subject-specific lists of open access journals

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