By Steve Casey Managing Partner
My last blog post discussed how audiences were changing and the importance of communicating where your audience is. As communication options have proliferated, the medical journal remains the gold standard for the communication of scientific data and information. However, journals have changed, and their audience with it. In the past, the journal business model was to deliver scientific content to a subscribed audience. Originally, subscriptions were how most of the journal revenue was secured. Then, advertising became a way to increase revenues and offset the increasing subscription (audience) generation costs. The advent of journal advertising did not mean the audience could be forsaken, as the ability to generate higher revenues was entirely due to the size and quality of the subscribed audience. Now in this digital age, journals no longer need to focus on the subscription levels or the advertising to generate revenues and can make scientific information available to all at no cost. In addition, authors now have a new avenue to have manuscripts published in a peer-reviewed journal and available to all interested parties. "Open access” medical journals specialize in a non-subscription business model while others, such as traditional subscription-based journals (AKA “pay wall” journals), make open access available on demand. This new “open access” avenue is still gaining recognition and understanding especially with biopharma companies.
According to a review of the Directory of Open Access Journals Database1, in 2018 over 80,000 original scientific articles were published by member journals. Still not the major share of overall scientific articles published annually, but the open access movement is gaining steam. The 2018 number of original articles published in open access journals is up significantly from 19,000 in 2010. As 2020 progresses, we can assume that open access numbers will rise as COVID-19 has pushed researchers and organizations to use the open access channel to share pandemic information quickly and broadly. In addition, it is important to note the numbers from the DOAJ database do not count all open access journals or pay wall journals offering open access articles meaning there are an even higher number of open access original articles. The incredible growth in open access has vastly increased the medical community’s ability to freely review scientific data and information especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in original articles published in open access journals may be a leading indicator that, when allowed to do so, authors are moving away from the traditional subscription-based journal publishing. But is it the best publishing approach for healthcare products companies? It depends: when setting up a publication plan, each publication has its own set of specific objectives. Those objectives should be used to help determine the best pathway to follow -- traditional subscription or open access. Some reasons to use open access include: increased scientific exchange due to potentially broader audience, easier access for all readers, better control over identifier creation, and vastly superior feedback, both in real time and enduring. For these reasons, I believe open access could become the preferred method of publishing for healthcare product companies. The volume and quality of metrics that can be derived from open access can provide an early indication if the publication objectives are being met. Unlike the journal impact factor, which rarely aligns with an article’s impact or the citation count (which is not apparent until post-publication) the alternative metrics that can be derived from most articles published open access can actually speak to the investment made in time, energy, and money. In my next blog I hope to shed some more light on different strategic approaches for using open access in scientific publication.
Omni-HC Blogs are written by members of the Omni-HC team.