Conducting literature searches is an essential first step to medical writing. Obtaining articles can be an expensive proposition for clients if they are available only through subscription or through online purchase of individual articles. Open access is becoming an increasingly important alternative.
Open access is the practice of providing free availability and unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly research. The open access movement began modestly about a decade ago with a small group of scientists and librarians and has now grown to be global in status. Currently about 20% of peer-reviewed articles are available via open access.
Publishers of scientific journals have resisted the movement as it challenges their business model. They often provide free access to articles six months or more after publication, but even then there can be restrictions on their use.
The National Library of Congress’s Pub Med is a popular site for searches. PubMed Central is a free full-text archive of journal articles. Springer is a publisher that has embraced open access, and has acquired another open access site, Biomed Central. The Public Library of Science is another important site. The Directory of Open Access Journals allows searches across a large variety of freely available journals.
Dr. Peter Suber presents the case in Open Access Overview that open access serves the interests of many groups including authors, teachers, libraries, universities, the general public, and even publishers. To this list I would add information professionals and their clients.