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Open Access Publications: A Bane or a Boon?

Submitted by on January 30, 2013 – 9:46 PM 3 Comments

open accessMedical journalism has conventionally relied on paid subscriptions. This is due to the fact that print publications confer substantial costs to the publication agencies which are compensated by financially charging the subscribers.  The modern era has witnessed a logarithmic growth of internet, which has transformed multiple disciplines of life, including the healthcare. Most of the peer reviewed medical journals are now available online with a subscription fee.



Perhaps more revolutionary is the growth of online only journals, a relatively new form of peer reviewed publications. This expedites the peer review process, saves print costs, makes it convenient to communicate between the house staff and is easier to access. With the advent of online journalism, open access publications started to surface. Thus, beyond the traditional realms of restricted access, anyone across the globe can access the full version of a peer reviewed with a single click!  All you need is an internet connection.



Open access has distinct advantages not conferred by the conventional journalism. It has a greater coverage, easier access, avoids prints, saves costs and is conducive to the environment by decreasing the print of millions of pages annually. The advantages conferred with the open access journalism are reflected in the numbers, the number of articles published in the open access journals almost doubles every year. Several of the high impact journals have also switched to this mode and can now be accessed online without costs. Others have given options to the authors to get their articles available freely without any subscription.



With this background, one wonders why don’t all the journals switch to open access? The answer is that there are certain inherent pitfalls associated with the open access. Publications is not a cost free business model. To recover the charges associated with the publications (for instance to maintain the journal office, to pay the editors, maintain the website) the publication agencies need funds.



These funds are generated from the authors in case of open access publications. This is not an issue when the researches are funded. However, many a times, especially with the authors from the developing countries this is not the case. The authors are then forced to pay from their pocket, resulting in a huge financial burden to the authors.



Another major caveat associated with the open access publications is that the article processing charges are taken when the article is accepted. This gives an “incentive” to the publication agencies to increase the acceptance rate and consequently decrease the quality of published articles. It is frequently seen that the acceptance rate of even the premier open access journals is greater than the top notch peer reviewed journals.



In the present state, it can be concluded that open access model despite several distinct advantages is not the “ideal” form of publications. With the passage of time, it is hoped that efforts will be made to balance the dissemination of research with quality and cost-effectiveness.




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  • Ali Rafiq

    A very well-balanced article indeed.

  •!/Protohedgehog Jon Tennant

    OK, plenty of misconceptions here that I’m gonna lend some time to rebuking.

    “Publications is not a cost free business model” – but it can be. The *majority* of open access journals cost nothing and are maintained by armies of volunteers. That they need to cost a lot is false and perpetuated by an out-dated system of for-profit publishers.

    You only mention the ‘Gold’ model of publication, where, as mentioned, a minority of journals require an APC up front to cover the costs, and make the article immediately OA.

    Editors don’t get paid, and nor do peer reviewers. They’re academic volunteers and mostly work for either nothing or a pitiful fee.

    Authors in developing countries need to be more aware that ‘high-impact’ journals and second ranking ones don’t need to be paid for. PLoS One has a fee waiver for authors that can’t afford to pay that had never been once turned down. It’s actually the misinformation that you’re perpetuating here that is reducing the transparency of this.

    You conflate higher acceptance rates of science with quality – this is simply not correct. PLoS publishes more in a month than Nature does in a year – does this mean the science is less quality? Do the same reviewers decrease their quality just because it’s open access? You implicitly insult the reviewer/editorial community with this statement. Acceptance rate is by no means a measure of quality; in fact rejection rate corresponds highly with impact factor and cost of publishing, so in fact higher acceptance rate is good for both science and the market, as eventually it’ll drive down costs (see PeerJ)

    What makes a journal ‘top notch’? That it accepts fewer articles, and of those a handful get cited more? Or a journal who’s target is to actually do what science needs and make information available. Sorry, but there are a lot of misconceptions here, and I suggest you read around the topic a bit more before making such incoherent and generally incorrect statements. Not your fault entirely, much of the academic community is still largely misinformed about OA.

    See for an overview by Peter Suber, it’s quite useful.

    • Haris Riaz

      Jon Tennant: Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately I don’t have time right now to respond in detail, but suggest you to read these 2 perspectives recently published by the NEJM:
      You have extrapolated the model of PLoS to all open access journals. Hence your own statement is limited by “Selection Bias” and “Generalizability”, my friend.
      Regarding your other comment, the science of Nature has greater “quality” not because of the lower acceptance rate but by the implications it has for the mankind.
      I hereby invite you to write an editorial on open access journalism, you may want to view