Open Access

At the most fundamental level, authors have two options for publishing an academic research paper.

Traditional subscription media

From days of the earliest medical journals (e.g., Lancet, 1823) all the way into the 1990's, medical publishers offered authors the best possible distribution channel for their research papers. The business model of these "traditional" journal publishers has been and continues to be to gather in revenue from readers, subscribers, and use that money to cover their costs for peer review, typesetting,

Today most traditional publishers provide both print and online versions of each issue. In addition to the cost of producing a hard copy, new costs of HTML production and networked computer systems were added.

While the subscription business model worked well for a very very long time, the economics of this model fell apart while competing with the free internet distribution by publishers with internet economics based businesses.

Over the next few years we are likely to see a major change in profile of journals — from traditional subscription to internet only, Open Access journals. Some predict that the subscription model will not endure more than another 6-9 years.


Internet media

The promulgation of internet applications and users in the 1990's opened the possibility for instantaneous global distribution of research papers. Scientists like Pat Brown here, at Stanford, recognized that the full potential of the research papers internet distribution was possible with a complimentary business model.

Open Access publishing provides the service of instantaneous global distribution of research papers by founding the operation on a business model designed for internet, not print. Open Access approach is not bound by the constraints of traditional publishing.

By gathering their revenue from the researchers, authors, or their funders, OA service providers are able to offer the best value to both the author and reader.



By posting the papers on the web and allowing them to be full-text indexed by all search engines, PubMed, etc., Open Access publishers provide global dissemination and offer more publicity to the authors.



By offering full-text searchable articles for free, Open Access publishers provide unbounded access for the readers.


Traditional and Open Access (OA) Published Article Comparison

Comparison of key factors to consider when choosing where to publish an academic article.

Publishing Options
Subscription Journal
Journal published online with no limitations
Content available for 6-12 months only to subscribers, then freely available
Author or funder pays for article to be freely available within a subscription journal
Cost to Article Author/Funder Free $ $$ $$
Cost to University $$$$ to subscribe Free Free after embargo

OA articles: free

Journal: $$$$ to subscribe

Ownership Rights Publisher Author Author Varies by publisher
Reader Access and Discoverability of Article

Requires subscription to access

Full-text not indexed by search engines; only on publisher's site

Free online access

Full-text indexed by search engines
After embargo period: Free online access and full-text indexed by search engines

Free Access (may not display as free in PubMed)

Full-text not indexed by search engines; only on publisher's site

Supporting Data Not published Published, freely available Varies with publisher Varies with publisher


The requirement that research supported by NIH funds be publicly available is independent of the publishing option chosen.NIH requires that articles from NIH grants be submitted to PMC within 12 months of original publication.