Open access journal

Open access (OA) 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] While open access journals are freely available to the reader, there are still costs associated with the publication and production of such journals.[2] Some are subsidized, and some require payment on behalf of the author.

Some open access journals are subsidized and are financed by an academic institution, learned society or a government information center. Others are financed by payment of article processing charges by submitting authors, money typically made available to researchers by their institution or funding agency.[3] Sometimes these two are referred to respectively as "gold" and "platinum" models to emphasize their distinction,[4][5] although other times "gold" OA is used to refer to both paid and unpaid OA.[6]

In 2009, there were approximately 4800 active open access journals, publishing approximately 190,000 articles.[7]


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 are one of the two general methods for providing open access. The other one (sometimes called the "green road to open access", as opposed to the "gold road" above) 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 as:

  • 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


Many journals have been subsidized ever since the beginnings of scientific journals.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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 were Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Postmodern Culture, Psycoloquy, and The Public-Access Computer Systems Review.

One of the very first[8] online journals, GeoLogic, Terra NOVA,[9] was published by Paul Browning and started in 1989. It was not a discrete journal but an electronic section of TerraNova. The journal ceased to be open access in 1997 due to a change in the policy of the editors (EUG) and publishing house (Blackwell).[citation needed]

Full-blown scientific journals followed. In 1998, one of the first open access journals in medicine was created, the Journal of Medical Internet Research,[10] publishing its first issue in 1999. One of the more unusual 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.[11]

In the biological and geological sciences, paleontology came into the forefront in 1998 with Palaeontologia Electronica,[12] which quickly became the most-read paleontological journal in any format.[citation needed] One challenge to digital-only biological journals was the lack of protection afforded by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to scientific names published in formats other than paper, but this was overcome by revisions to the Code in 1999 (effective January 1, 2000).[citation needed]

It is estimated that the number of open access journals increased by 500% during the 2000-2009 decade. Also, the average number of articles that were published per open access journal per year increased from approximately 20 to 40 during the same period, resulting in that the number of open access articles increased by 900% during that decade.[7]

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 economy). 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. While the payments are normally incurred per article published (e.g. BMC journals or PLOS ONE), there are some journals that apply them per manuscript submitted (e.g. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics) or per author (PeerJ). A 2013 study found that only 28% of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) required payment by the authors, however, this figure was higher in journals with a scientific or medical focus (43% and 47% respectively), and lowest in journals publishing in the arts and humanities (0% and 4% respectively).[13]

No-fee open access journals

No-fee open access journals use a variety of business models. As summarized by Peter Suber:[14] "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".


Advantages and disadvantages of open access journals are the subjects of much discussion amongst scholars and publishers. 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. There are many publishers that started up as open access publishers, such as BioMed Central and Public Library of Science.

An obvious advantages of open access journals is the free access to scientific papers regardless of affiliation with a subscribing library and improved access for the general public; this is specially true in developing countries. Lower costs for research in academia and industry has been claimed as well.[citation needed]

The main argument against open access journals is the possible damage to the peer review system, diminishing the overall quality of scientific journal publishing. For example in 2009, a hoax paper generated by a computer program was accepted for publication by a major publisher under the author-pays-for-publication model.[15] In a similar incident, a staff writer for Science magazine and popular science publications targeted the open access system in 2013 by submitting to a number of such journals a deeply flawed paper on the purported effect of a lichen constituent. About 60% of those journals, including the Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals, accepted the faked medical paper, although PLOS ONE, the most established one, did reject it.[16] As a result, this experiment was criticised for being not peer-reviewed itself and for having a flawed methodology and lack of a control group.[17][18] Many newer open access journals also lack the reputation of their subscription counterparts, which have been in business for decades. This effect has been diminishing though since 2001, reflecting the emergence of high quality professional open access publishers such as PLOS and BioMedCentral.[19]

Opponents of the open access model continue to assert that the pay-for-access model is necessary to ensure that the publishers are 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. Opponents claim that open access is not necessary to ensure fair access for developing nations; differential pricing, or financial aid from developed countries or institutions can make access to proprietary journals affordable. Some critics also point out the lack of funding for author fees.[20]

Tests of the open access citation advantage

There has been claims of higher citation rates for open access authors.[21] However, a recent study concluded that overall citation rates for a time period of 2 years (2010/11) were 30% higher for subscription journals. After controlling for discipline, age of the journal and the location of the publisher, the differences largely disappeared in most subcategories except for journals that had been launched prior to 1996.[22]

Two major studies[23][24] dispute the claim that open access articles lead to more citations. Using a randomized controlled trial of open access publishing involving 36 participating journals in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, researchers from Cornell University report on the effects of free access on article downloads and citations. Articles placed in the open access condition (n=712) received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience within the first year, yet were cited no more frequently, nor earlier, than subscription-access control articles (n=2533) within 3 years.

There are many other studies, however, both major and minor, that report that open access does lead to significantly more citations. For example, a 2010 study – on a much larger and broader sample (27,197 articles in 1,984 journals) than the Cornell University study – used institutionally mandated open access instead of randomized open access to control for any bias on the part of authors toward self-selectively making their better (hence more citeable) articles open access. The result was a replication of the repeatedly reported open access citation advantage, with the advantage being equal in size and significance whether the open access was self-selected or mandated.[25]

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). 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.[26] BioMed Central, a for-profit publisher with now dozens of open-access journals, published its first article in the year 2000.[27] The Public Library of Science launched its first open access journal, PLOS Biology in 2003, with PLOS Medicine following in 2004, and PLOS ONE in 2006.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Suber, Peter. "Open Access Overview". Retrieved on 2012-11-13.
  2. ^ Suber, Peter. "Open Access Overview". 
  3. ^ Suber, Peter (2012). Open access. MIT Press. p. 138-139. ISBN 9780262517638. 
  4. ^ Machovec, G. (2013). "An Interview with Jeffrey Beall on Open Access Publishing". The Charleston Advisor 15: 50–50. doi:10.5260/chara.15.1.50.  edit
  5. ^ Öchsner, A. (2013). "Publishing Companies, Publishing Fees, and Open Access Journals". Introduction to Scientific Publishing. SpringerBriefs in Applied Sciences and Technology. p. 23. ISBN 978-3-642-38645-9. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-38646-6_4.  edit
  6. ^ Siân Harris (August 2012), "Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries", A report on a roundtable commissioned by SAGE, in association with the British Library. [1]
  7. ^ a b Björk, Bo-Christer (2011). "A Study of Innovative Features in Scholarly Open Access Journals". Journal of Medical Internet Research 13 (4): e115. ISSN 1438-8871. doi:10.2196/jmir.1802. 
  8. ^ See (especially if the link in some other footnote -- for Terra NOVA -- the one that says "failed verification, August 2013" -- which iirc displays as "[not in citation given]" -- seems to be a dead link)
  9. ^ "TerraNova"[not in citation given]
  10. ^ "The Journal of Medical Internet Research"[not in citation given]
  11. ^ "Journal of Surgical Radiology"[not in citation given]
  12. ^ "Palaeontologia Electronica Volume 16, Issue 2 May-August 2013". Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  13. ^ Kozak, Marcin; Hartley, James (Dec 2013). "Publication fees for open access journals: Different disciplines-different methods". Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology 64 (12): 2591–2594. doi:10.1002/asi.22972. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Suber, Peter (November 2, 2006). "No-fee open-access journals". SPARC open access Newsletter. 
  15. ^ Gilbert, N. (2009). "Editor will quit over hoax paper". Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2009.571.  edit. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  16. ^ John Bohannon. "Who's Afraid of Peer Review?". Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  17. ^ Eve, Martin (3 October 2013). "What’s “open” got to do with it?". Martin Eve. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Michael, Eisen (3 October 2013). "I confess, I wrote the Arsenic DNA paper to expose flaws in peer-review at subscription based journals". it is NOT junk. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Bo-Christer Björk and David Solomon (2012). "Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact". BMC Medicine, 10:73. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-73
  20. ^ Vogel, Gretchen (January 14, 2011). "Quandary: Scientists Prefer Reading Over Publishing 'open-access' Papers". Science. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  21. ^ Eysenbach, G. (2006). "Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles". PLoS Biology 4 (5): e157. PMC 1459247. PMID 16683865. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040157.  edit Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  22. ^ Björk, B. C.; Solomon, D. (2012). "Open access versus subscription journals: A comparison of scientific impact". BMC Medicine 10: 73. PMC 3398850. PMID 22805105. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-73.  edit
  23. ^ Davis, P. M; Lewenstein, B. V; Simon, D. H; Booth, J. G; Connolly, M. J L (2008). "Open access publishing, article downloads, and citations: randomised controlled trial". BMJ 337: a568. PMC 2492576. PMID 18669565. doi:10.1136/bmj.a568. 
  24. ^ Davis, P. M. (2011). "Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing". The FASEB Journal 25 (7): 2129–34. PMID 21450907. doi:10.1096/fj.11-183988. 
  25. ^ Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Lariviere, V., Gingras, Y., Brody, T., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2010). Futrelle, Robert P, ed. "Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research". PLoS ONE 5 (10): e13636. PMC 2956678. PMID 20976155. arXiv:1001.0361v2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013636. 
  26. ^ Eysenbach, Gunther. 2006. "The open-access Advantage", Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8(2):e8. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  27. ^ a b Suber, Peter. "Timeline of the open-access movement". Retrieved 2012-11-13.

Further reading

External links

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