Biomedical researchers at 180 UK universities will soon be able to share their findings at no cost to readers as the result of a deal struck between the open access publisher BioMed Central and the Joint Information Systems Committee (a joint committee of UK further and higher education funding bodies).
From 1 July, charges for processing articles will be waived for all UK higher education staff when they are published in any of BioMed Central's peer reviewed journals, in which all research content is freely available.
Unlike traditional journals, BioMed Central charges authors (or their funding agencies) for publishing their articles — which are then made available at no cost to readers in one of its more than 90 electronic journals. Several other publishers are expected to follow BioMed Central's lead in the next year.
The deal between BioMed Central and the Joint Information Systems Committee comes just three months after a similar deal was struck between BioMed Central and the NHS in England (15 March, p 568). Together, the deals cover most biomedical research being done in the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, researchers will not be obliged to publish in BioMed Central's journals, and many may choose to publish elsewhere. The academic reward system is currently based on publication in journals with a high impact factor, and BioMed Central's journals are too new to have impact factors or very high profiles in their research fields.
Although hailing the deal as hugely important for UK biomedical research, BioMed Central's publisher, Jan Velterop, said: “It's time for academe to do more than just pay lip service to the notion of open access: it needs to back it up with positive action.”
He said that junior researchers needed reassurance that publishing their work in open access journals will be regarded favourably by those making decisions over appointments, promotions, and research funding.