Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, October 20, 2008

BMJ converts to OA

BMJ converted to OA on Open Access Day.  From the announcement:

The BMJ [formerly, the British Medical Journal] reiterates its commitment to open access publishing on the first international Open Access Day.

After 10 years of providing free access to its peer reviewed research online, the BMJ is now officially an open access journal. The BMJ's unique business model means that all research articles are freely available immediately on publication, regardless of whether or not they are publicly funded, with no charges to authors or readers....

In 1998, the BMJ became the first major general medical journal to provide free full text online access to its research articles, to deposit the full text in PubMed Central, and to allow authors to retain the copyright of their articles.

Since then, the BMJ Group has introduced BMJ Unlocked, which allows authors who submit research to 19 BMJ specialist journals to pay an author fee and make their work open access.

Changes to the BMJ's processes this year have brought it into full compliance with international open access policies but with a unique mixed revenue model, whereby access to research articles is currently funded through income from subscriptions and advertising rather than from author charges....


  • BMJ is an OA pioneer and has modified its business model several times over the years.  After almost 10 years of completely gratis OA, it began charging for non-research articles in January 2005 (announced in August 2003).  In January 2006 it put non-research articles behind a year-long moving wall, instead of offering their first week free of charge.  I'm very glad to see BMJ move back to immediate OA for all its contents, and very glad it is able to use other revenue to dispense with author-side fees.
  • Curious to know which license BMJ chose for its OA articles, I looked at a sample research article published since October 14 (this one, published October 17).  I could find no licensing information or copyright statement in the article.  Users must apparently fall back on BMJ's general page on Website Terms and Conditions, which essentially requires written permission for all uses beyond fair use or fair dealing.  BMJ's new OA is gratis, not libre.

Update (10/21/08).  A colleague points out that the article I examined for licensing info yesterday has been deposited in PMC, and that the PMC copy has a CC-BY license.  (The whole BMJ backfile, from 1840 to July 2008, is on deposit in PMC.)  This suggests that BMJ intends to make its OA research articles libre OA, not merely gratis OA, and that it hasn't yet added the licensing info to the journal copy of the article.

As long as I'm writing an update, let me add that in the first version of my post I mistakenly said that BMJ was making all its articles OA, when in fact it's only making its research articles OA.  I noticed and corrected the error a couple of hours later.  But I've since heard from several correspondents responding to the original version.  I'm glad to take this opportunity to draw attention to the error and its correction.