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Open access (26)

3 August, 2019

Dear colleagues,

To assist your discussion - are you aware of this recent publication? [*see note below]


Best wishes,

Steve Winter

[*Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): For the benefit of those who may not have immediate web access, here are the citation, abstract and selected extract of the paper. I was surprised to read that two journals (Science and Science Translational Medicine) only provide details of their article processing charge after the article is accepted, which seems unethical?

CITATION: Medical publishing and peer review

Open access policies of leading medical journals: a cross-sectional study

Tim S Ellison, Tim Koder, Laura Schmidt, Amy Williams, Christopher C Winchester



Objectives: Academical and not-for-profit research funders are increasingly requiring that the research they fund must be published open access, with some insisting on publishing with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to allow the broadest possible use. We aimed to clarify the open access variants provided by leading medical journals and record the availability of the CC BY licence for commercially funded research.

Methods: We identified medical journals with a 2015 impact factor of ≥15.0 on 24 May 2017, then excluded from the analysis journals that only publish review articles. Between 29 June 2017 and 26 July 2017, we collected information about each journal’s open access policies from their websites and/or by email contact. We contacted the journals by email again between 6 December 2017 and 2 January 2018 to confirm our findings.

Results: Thirty-five medical journals publishing original research from 13 publishers were included in the analysis. All 35 journals offered some form of open access allowing articles to be free-to-read, either immediately on publication or after a delay of up to 12 months. Of these journals, 21 (60%) provided immediate open access with a CC BY licence under certain circumstances (eg, to specific research funders). Of these 21, 20 only offered a CC BY licence to authors funded by non-commercial organisations and one offered this option to any funder who required it.

Conclusions: Most leading medical journals do not offer to authors reporting commercially funded research an open access licence that allows unrestricted sharing and adaptation of the published material. The journals’ policies are therefore not aligned with open access declarations and guidelines. Commercial research funders lag behind academical funders in the development of mandatory open access policies, and it is time for them to work with publishers to advance the dissemination of the research they fund.


Of the 21 journals that offered a CC BY licence, 19 (90%) disclosed article processing charges on their websites. Across these journals, charges ranged from US$3000 to US$5000; the most common article processing charge was US$5000 (in 13 (62%) of journals; figure 3). Of the six journals disclosing an article processing charge of less than US$5000, five had an impact factor of less than 20.0, indicating that the cost of article processing charges may depend on impact factor. Details of the fees charged by the remaining two journals (10%), Science and Science Translational Medicine, were not available from their websites because the details were only provided when the article was accepted.]