March 16, 2009

Open Access Journals Provide Free Access to Health Research

Last year, a measure passed that requires researchers who receive federal funding from the National Institutes of Health to abide by a public access policy and make their research papers available through PubMed Central, a free online archive of life and biomedical science journal literature.

As a result, much more literature medical research is expected to become available to the public (although much of it will become available only after 12 months have passed since publication). Librarians and consumer advocates have been among the champions of this policy because it will increase access to scientific and medical knowledge.

Last week, it was announced that this policy of access no longer needs to be renewed every year, making it more likely to succeed in providing the public with access to medical research funded by their tax dollars. Supporters of the policy, however, are currently fighting a legislative challenge from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI); it has been suggested that his and others’ opposition the public access policy may be related to political donations received from the publishing industry.

In addition to the individual articles to be made available through the public access policy, a number of journals are already available in full online as “open access” journals — journals which are freely available to the public “without financial or other barrier other than access to the internet itself.” In other words, you or your library do not need to pay for a subscription to access these titles.

Currently, BioMed Central seems to be the biggest publisher of open access medical journals. A complete list of BioMed Central journals is available online. A few that might be of particular interest to our readers:

For more information on open access publishing (which is distinct from the NIH public access policy), check out this introduction and the fairly detailed Wikipedia entry.


8 Responses to “Open Access Journals Provide Free Access to Health Research”

  1. Jill Says:

    Nice! Since I don’t work for the university any more, I miss free full-text access.

  2. Linda Says:

    Me, too!

  3. Jessica Says:

    Thanx for postin this. This really wonderful even though I just a little bit of it, but it goes a long way. At the same time why didn’t you mention this journal as well. Basically, its evidence base medicine and found its good as well. http://www.cochrane.org/

  4. Knitting Clio Says:

    This is great for the consumer, but for purposes of promotion and tenure in academia, online journals, even if peer reviewed, do not have the same level of respect and prestige as traditional print journals.

    I’m a historian of medicine whose work is funded by an National Library of Medicine extramural grant. Historians generally are expected to produce a monograph in order to receive tenure. University presses are already suffering from poor book sales made worse by a bad economy. Open access for monographs will make the situation worse.

  5. Rachel Says:

    Knitting Clio – just wanted to point out for readers that a journal being “online” is completely different from being “open access” and each of these is completely separate from the issue of peer review (which most open access journals *are* peer reviewed). You have a good point that for academics, issues of reputation and tenure usually need to be considered for publishing – many of the open access journals are new (launched within the last 5-10 years), which makes it difficult to have built up the prestige and reputation of a journal that’s been around since the late 1800s or so. I did find this list of resources related to digital materials, scholarship, and tenure that might be interesting to those inclined to care about such issues – http://hsc.unm.edu/library/sc/#PTOA

  6. Ravi Says:

    Hi…
    I don’t work for the university any more, I miss free full-text access.This is great for the consumer, but for purposes of promotion and tenure in academia, online journals, even if peer reviewed, do not have the same level of respect and prestige as traditional print journals.

  7. Rachel Says:

    Ravi, in addition to online not at all meaning that a journal isn’t peer reviewed, online vs. print are no longer really types of journals nor are they mutually exclusive. New England Journal of Medicine is available online, as is JAMA, and BMJ, and many others and many, many people subscribe to them online only – that has nothing to do with the level of respect for the journals, or shouldn’t. Online and print are delivery methods, not content quality assurance methods.

  8. Women's Health Says:

    I LOVE pubmed…It is great that they have allowed public access to the scientific publications.

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