The Reporter
Issue 495, 26 January 2004
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Online journals give free access to all

Academics at Leeds are taking part in pioneering online journals which make research findings accessible for free.

Publishing in Internet-based ‘open access journals’ is paid for before publication – typically a few hundred pounds per article – by the author or funding body. Articles are then made accessible to researchers for no charge.

Jan Wilkinson, University Librarian, welcomed the new development. “It’s vital that we investigate all new routes for publishing in order to improve the impact and visibility of the research done at Leeds,” she said. “Research has shown that openly-accessible research is more widely cited than papers published in traditional subscription journals.”

More than 30 academics at Leeds University have published papers in the journals of the open access publisher, BioMedCentral, which are available from its website without charge. Publishing in BMC journals is free, with costs picked up by JISC, the Joint Information Systems Committee.

The open access model is being enthusiastically adopted by publishers keen to explore new methods of disseminating research to a wider community, including Oxford University Press and the Public Library of Science.

Open access publishers are also experimenting with new models of peer review. Leeds-based open access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics goes one step further and allows open peer review.

When papers are submitted to ACP for peer review, the journal posts them online and holds a commentary session where scientists can debate the work. The papers then undergo full traditional peer review, with the referees’ comments also being published.

Ken Carslaw, from the school of the environment, which publishes ACP, said: “The theory behind an open access journal is to place the balance of power back with the academics whose work is being published.

“Traditional peer review is a good way of assessing new research but it isn’t problem-free. Good work can be rejected if it clashes with the reviewers’ own studies or opinions, or technical errors can be missed, especially where papers span different disciplines.”

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