Intended for healthcare professionals

Editor's Choice

A hybrid for open access

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 07 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0-g
  1. Kamran Abbasi (kabbasi{at}, acting editor

    Open access publishing has risen in prominence in recent months. The Public Library of Science's new medical journal, launching on 21 October, will champion this publishing model, whereby full text research articles are freely available. The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee rebuked larger commercial publishers for a 58% hike in journal prices from 1998 to 2003. The committee believes that the increase has created an “impending crisis,” where academic libraries struggle to purchase subscriptions to journals their readers need, in a world where large commercial publishers make obscene profits and research institutions pay twice: to fund research then access it when published in subscription journals. Free, interlinked, institutional research repositories are the way forward, the committee concludes (24 July, p 188).

    Last month, the US National Institutes of Health announced a consultation document on requiring all NIH funded research to be freely available on PubMed Central—NIH's digital repository of biomedical research—six months after publication in a journal (11 September, p 590). Patient groups and the health department are pushing for better access to NIH sponsored research. NIH director Dr Elias Zerhouni is accountable for the billions of dollars NIH spends on research and believes that the status quo—where publicly funded research is not quickly available to all for free—is not acceptable.

    Where does the BMJ stand on this issue that threatens the existence of many journals, particularly those that are published monthly or less frequently? We begin by charging for access to some of in 2005. We also begin by making a distinction between material that is original research, where authors have added most of the value, and our remaining content, where we believe we have added most of the value—imaginatively called “value added content.” Original research will remain free from the time of publication, and sent immediately to PubMed Central—as it is now. Value added content will be free for the first week following publication and then again after a year. will still be free to people in the world's poorest countries, in line with the Health Inter Network for Research (HINARI) initiative. We will review these decisions next year, along with the subscription rate (see p 814).

    Additionally, we are researching authors' views on the “author pays” model whereby authors pay a fee for all or some of the peer review, editing, and publication of their work. This fee—small compared with the cost of conducting research—makes published research free to the end user. All this leads us to what we have begun calling the “hybrid model” of scientific publishing, where authors might pay for peer review and publication of original research while libraries—or readers—pay for the value added content.

    We are not sure where all this will lead—the hybrid model may not work—but we invite your views on this uncertain journey.


    • Embedded ImageSee for a fuller account of our current policy