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Taking Comfort From Copyright:

An Examination Of Open-Access Peer Reviewed Internet Based Journals

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Librarians are noting a surge in the number of open–access, peer reviewed journals which are only available on the Internet. There are no formal print versions. This paper examines journals that are intended to be completely free of cost to end users from the moment they are posted on the Internet. The premise of this paper is that these journals represent a new publishing model that will thrive in the future. These journals are attracting the standard of authors, editors, and materials that librarians look for when evaluating the worth of a print periodical.

Information management scholars have reminded us that print was in and of itself a revolution with Guttenberg’s press and declared that society is witnessing a shift from the print paradigm to “global hypermedia” (Shum, 2). Others believe that: “An historic realignment of power is beginning to take place … in publishing” (Horton, 1510). One has gone so far as to suggest: “That in an era of rapid electronic access to information the four-centuries-old publishing model based on user fees now hinders communication” (Tamber, 1575). Those are strong statements. This paper will examine a number of aspects of this phenomenon affecting both librarians and publishers.


The eminent library scholar, T. D. Wilson, with the support of Loughborough University and the University of Sheffield, have sponsored Information Research , a cost free, peer reviewed, Internet based journal since 1995. Its’ authors read like a who’s who of academics specializing in the organization of knowledge. First Monday , a well respected peer reviewed library science journal, with a computer/technical emphasis, and hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library, has been on-line, for free, since 1996. The Association of Research Libraries has established an accreditation program for these journals, certifying them as being worthy of inclusion in library collections – under the auspices of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC Europe) , (1). The American Library Association has devoted forums and sessions to this topic at its’ two mid-winter meetings in 2004 and 2005.

Libraries across the world are including these journals in their collections. Lund University Libraries’ Directory of Open Access Journals catalogues 1524, (2024 as of February, 2006). The International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) lists a large number of these journals on its web site too. The University Library of Regensburg’s Electronic Journals Library contains 2195 free access, online-only, journals in a number of European languages (the site is in German). The Dspace organization, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provides cost-free, open-source, computer software that allows volunteer organizations to archive these journals. Well over 100 universities and academic institutions are now members of that foundation. Examples include the University of Southampton Libraries which sponsors an international self archiving site for these journals, as does the Queensland University of Technology.

Reputable academic presses offer these journals to the public. Stanford University's HighWire Press now hosts 852 journals of which 27 are identified as “free” or open access sites on its web page; as does Monash University and the Oxford University Press. Oxford now offers its premier journal, Nucleic Acids Research, on this basis. {Do you remember Watson and Crick?} Software developers have noticed the trend too.

ScholarOne , for example, has developed a suite of computer programs designed to help create and maintain on-line academic journals. Some research field’s journals have experienced a wholesale conversion to an electronic journal format. Librarians should not be surprised to discover that journals covering the computer languages that form the backbone of the Internet are now almost exclusively Internet based (Zhao, 140). The same is true of physics (Kling et al, 1). Large numbers of the articles contained therein are being self-archived, at open access sites. See for example, the Arxiv.org website hosted by Cornell University Library. One has to review the metadata for each article posted at that site to determine if it has been peer-reviewed. It is suspected that new journals in those fields will make themselves available in an open access format in the near future. There are benefits to all of the groups who are affected by this trend.

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