Open Access Journals Provide Expanded Research Opportunities Without the Cost

Open Access Journals Provide Expanded Research Opportunities Without the Cost

Science is publicly funded, but the structure of the publishing industry often makes it very expensive to get access to the latest scientific results. It can be a challenge to find reliable, peer-reviewed information online, and lack of access to research can slow down a research project, or worse, prevent important health care information from reaching populations it could benefit. A growing number of researchers around the world are pushing to make peer-reviewed scientific research more widely accessible and economical. Fortunately for researchers without expensive journal subscriptions, there are already many peer-reviewed open access options available.

The mainstays of open access publication are free multi-disciplinary databases. These are organizations that make peer-reviewed research results in many scientific disciplines available to all users on the internet. The oldest and most famous is the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which publishes open access journals in both general biomedical fields (such as PLoS Medicine) and more specialized fields (such as PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases), all of which may be searched from its main database at or browsed individually.

Biomedcentral, another strong proponent of open access around the world, and with PLoS a sponsor of International Open Access Week, publishes 223 open access journals in various biological fields. Like the PLoS website, Biomedcentral offers both browsable journal homepages and a search func- tion for all of its journals at

Screenshot of the AJLM web portal

African Journals Online (AJoL) aggregates articles published in Africa, comprising several hundred publications that range from national journals of medicine to more specific journals such as the African Journal of AIDS Research. AJoL also provides a comprehensive list of other low-cost research resources for African researchers.

The African Journal of Laboratory Medicine (AJLM), the official journal of ASLM, also provides peer-reviewed, open access articles focusing on the role of the lab and lab professionals in clinical care and public health in Africa. AJLM (available at, launched in 2011, encourages scholarly exchange among biomedical scientists and clinicians, public health officials, the medical community, and policy makers across Africa.

There are also more specialized open access journals. The American Society for Microbiology sponsors an online journal, mBio, focused solely on microbiology, at There is also an open access journal of emerging infectious diseases, available at To find more open access journals specific to your field, try the Directory of Open Access Journals, which lists about 250 journals in biology and over 500 in medicine and public health, at Some journals with expensive subscription rates are made available to residents of low- or middle-income countries for free or at a reduced cost. The UN and the WHO sponsor a project called research4life (available at, a set of databases dedicated to research in the life sciences, which are accessible to public institutions such as universities, teaching hospitals, government offices and research institutions. To get access, the institution librarian must fill out a registration form; after an institution is registered, anyone affiliated with it may access any of a staggering 8000 journals on the database. These include high-impact publications such as Nature and specialized journals ranging from microbiology to agriculture.

By: Laurel Oldach (Lab Culture, Editorial Team)