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

Different perspectives

Dear Editors

I am responding to Chris Zielinski‘s rapid response in which it was stated that:

“According to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (, there are currently (18 April 2019) 13,055 open access journals being published, of which 9,570 (73.30%) do not have an article processing charge, while 3,427 (26.25%) do, with no Information for 58 (0.4%) of the journals.”

As the rapid response refers to possibly of “patients” as readers, and the original article was written in the context of publishing in biomedical field, it would have been more relevant to consider only open access journals in medical subjects (722) of which 478 (66%) do not have an article processing charge, while 227 do, with no Information for 17 of the journals.

More importantly the majority (3/4) of the open access journals listed in DOAJ without article processing charge are less than 4 years old, and many publishes only twice a year.

Perhaps this gives a better perspective on the contribution of open access journals without fees.

Given that there are about 5700 biomedical journals indexed with Medline (2019) out of at least 14,000 biomedical journals published worldwide (2011 estimate; no one seemed to have bothered to hazard a guess in recent years) the outlet for open access publication at no cost to authors and readers seemed to be a drop in the ocean as many of the Medline journals have far more frequent and regular publications.

Should a minority of articles skew thinking in both clinicians and the greater public just because it is free? Obviously not.

The expectations of unlimited access to published material is unrealistic and have lasting consequences; just look at the demise of the independent fourth estate now subjugated by external commercial and political interest and weakened by amateur citizen journalism and blogging due to a shift of consumption of information fretted by expectations of free access.

And I haven’t even touched on the controversy of some open access journals involving its relationship with big pharma

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 April 2019
Shyan Goh
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Sydney, Australia