Despite concerns about the ethics of pay-for-play publishing, the number of open-access academic and medical journals is growing at a fast clip.
In January, an open-access pioneer announced it would more than double the number of journals it offers. Meanwhile, Blackwell Publishing, the world’s largest publisher of academic society journals, is dipping its toes into open access, and the number of free journals has grown by about 300 over the last few months.
At least 1,525 journals provide free access, making up 5 to 10 percent of the world’s journals. The free journals are gaining influence too: Thomson Scientific, which tracks academic publishing, found they’re commonly cited by other journals, suggesting that they’re well-read. Meanwhile, other journals are opening their archives to readers for free.
“It’s very exciting that publishers the world over are recognizing the benefits of open access and are conducting their own experiments,” said Gavin Yamey, senior editor of PLOS Medicine, one of two flagship journals published by the Public Library of Science, which helped spearhead the concept of providing free online access.
Not everyone is thrilled, however. With some exceptions, journals have done things the old-fashioned way — charging for subscriptions and accepting advertising — for as long as anyone can remember. Many of the biggest names in the journal industry are sticking with the traditional model, and some of their editors say they have major doubts about their new competitors, especially considering the financial pressures they face to stay afloat.
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For those of you interested in browsing free medical journals, here is an appropriately named site from our blogroll: FreeMedicalJournals.com.