Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should I publish in an open access journal?

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 18 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1544

Linked Patient Commentary

Open access: remember the patients

  1. Matthew Kurien, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant gastroenterologist12,
  2. David S Sanders, professor of gastroenterology and NHS consultant12,
  3. James J Ashton, clinical research fellow and paediatric gastroenterology specialist registrar34,
  4. R Mark Beattie, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist and honorary professor of paediatric gastroenterology3
  1. 1Academic Unit of Gastroenterology, Departments of Infection and Immunity and Cardiovascular Science, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield
  3. 3Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Southampton Children’s Hospital, UK
  4. 4Department of Human Genetics and Genomic Medicine, University of Southampton
  1. Correspondence to: M Kurien m.kurien{at}, M Beattie mark.beattie{at}

An “author pays” publishing model is the only fair way to make biomedical research findings accessible to all, say Matthew Kurien and David S Sanders, but James J Ashton and R Mark Beattie worry that it can lead to bias in the evidence base towards commercially driven results

Yes—Matthew Kurien, David S Sanders

Digital technology has changed the landscape of scientific publishing. For centuries scholarly communication by publishing in print journals was central to academic life.1 The internet has democratised scientific communication and cut distribution costs, and support for open access publishing has grown with these developments.23

Open access means permanently removing obstacles—financial, legal, and technical—to accessing, sharing, and reusing scholarly research outputs. In practice, journals charge researchers a fee to publish articles that are free to read online.

At the end of last year the European Commission backed a group of national research funders, cOAlition S, proposing that all research they funded after 2020 be published with open access.1 The coalition is consulting on capping author fees at a “reasonable” level. The funders propose bulk payment arrangements, rather than individual authors worrying about fees. They also want to eliminate conditional open access, whereby articles in a “hybrid” subscription journal are made open access on payment of a fee.

Open access publishing is the only fair way to make research accessible to all, facilitating quicker changes to medical practice and benefits for patients. All doctors and researchers have a collective responsibility to promote this innovation.

Locked behind paywalls

About 75% of published science articles are locked behind paywalls.4 This restricts access for researchers on the basis of wealth. More fundamentally, it deprives taxpayers and patients, who help pay for and participate in research. If you’re at a privileged institution you may have access through a journal subscription. Alternatively, you may be fortunate …

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