A Study of Innovative Features in Scholarly Open Access Journals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The emergence of the Internet has triggered tremendous developments in the publication of scientific peer reviewed journals, which today usually are available also in parallel electronic versions. But the way the peer review functions, the look of articles and journals and the rigid and slow publication schedules have remained largely the same for the vast majority of journals, which are still subscription-based. Those publishing firms and scholar publishers who have chosen the more radical option of Open Access (OA), in which the content of journals is freely accessible to anybody with Internet connectivity, have had a much bigger degree of freedom in experimenting with innovations.

Objective: To study how Open Access journals have experimented with innovations concerning for instance ways of organizing the peer review, the format of journals and articles, new interactive and media formats and publishing revenue models,

Methods: The features of 24 open access journals were studied. The journals were chosen in a non-random manner from the around 5000 existing OA journals, based on available information about interesting journals, and include both representative cases and highly innovative outlier cases.

Results: Most early OA journals in the 1990s were founded by individual scholars and used a business model based on voluntary work, close in spirit to Open Source development of software. In the next wave many long established journals, in particularly society journals and journals from regions like Latin America made their articles OA when they started publishing parallel electronic versions. From around 2002 newly founded professional OA publishing firms, using article processing charges to fund their operations, have emerged. Over the years there have been several experiments with new forms of peer review, media enhancements and the inclusion of structured data sets with articles. The growth of OA publishing has also in recent years been facilitated by the availability of Open Source software for journal publishing.

Conclusions: The cases illustrate how a new technology and a business model enabled by it an be harnessed to find new innovative ways for the organization and content of scholarly publishing. Several recent launches of OA journals by major subscription publishers demonstrate that OA is rapidly gaining acceptance as a sustainable alternative to subscription based scholarly publishing
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)e115
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • KOTA2011


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