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In ... and Out: Open Access Publishing in Scientific Journals

Boumil, Marcia M. MA, MS, JD, LLM; Salem, Deeb N. MD

doi: 10.1097/QMH.0000000000000035
Original Articles

Open access (OA) journals are a growing phenomenon largely of the past decade wherein readers can access the content of scientific journals without paying for a subscription. The costs are borne by authors (or their institutions) who pay a fee to be published, thus allowing readers to access, search, print, and cite the journals without cost. Although the OA model, in and of itself, need not diminish scientific rigor, selectivity, or peer review, the “author pays” model creates an inherent conflict of interest: it operates with the incentive on the part of the journal to publish more and reject less. This is coupled with cost containment measures that affect the journals' ability to engage experienced editors and professional staff to scrutinize data, data analyses, and author conflicts of interest. While some OA journals appear to be comparable to their print competitors, others are “predatory” and have no legitimacy at all. Two recent “scams”—one recently published in Science—highlight the urgency of addressing the issues raised by OA publication so that OA does not lose its credibility just as it begins to gather substantial momentum. High-quality journals develop their reputations over time, and OA outlets will be no exception. For this to occur, however, the OA audience will need to be satisfied that OA can deliver high-quality publications utilizing rigorous peer review, editing, and conflict of interest scrutiny. Academic tenure and promotion committees that review scholarly credentials are understandably skeptical of publications in unrecognized journals, and the large number of new OA outlets contributes to this urgency from their perspective as well.

Department of Public Health and Community Medicine (Ms Boumil) and Tufts Medical Center, Department of Medicine (Dr Salem), Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Marcia M. Boumil, MA, MS, JD, LLM, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, 145 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111 (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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