Open Access Journals Provide Free Access to Health Research

March 16, 2009

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.

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