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  • Writer's pictureIvan Bristow

Open Access Journals - the best things in life are free

For the busy clinician when any clinical question arises, “googling” (rightly or wrongly) is the first thing that many of us will do. A great resource but not without its limitations and precautions. Amongst the results you may come across articles from reputable journals which address your question but a quick click through leads to a brief abstract and a request to pay £40 to download or read the full article! A common scenario?

Go back to the early 1990’s and a medical or university library was probably the only way to access publications, it was costly time away from the clinic and often hard to get a library card if you weren’t affiliated to the hospital or studying at a University. Even then they didn’t have all the journals you were after. These days there are a growing number of “open access” journals online. These are journals which make published papers free for readers to view by charging the author a publication fee for an accepted article.

It's been 25 years since the first “open access” journal appeared on our screens and, believe it or not, it was a dermatology journal. The Dermatology Online Journal (DOJ) started in 1995 and was launched with an editorial (1) stating that there were far too many medical journals at the time and information overload was the problem for clinicians. The idea of the journal was to offer a cheaper way to publish and share knowledge in a timelier manner with interactive features. Printing costs for physical journals were high and colour images (frequent in dermatology) added to that cost. An electronic journal was able to reduce the costs as there were no “print charges”, paper or delivery. In addition, articles wouldn’t be restricted in length as there were no page restrictions either. The readership would be global via the worldwide web.

To publish an article in a reputable open access journal still requires peer review to ensure it is of sufficient quality. If accepted the author pays a fee to the journal and it then is made available online. In addition, quality journals are included in the main medical databases like MEDline and CINAHL so anyone undertaking a literature search will easily find the work. The advantages of open access are many. In addition to the wider readership, data can be collected on the number of times an article is viewed, downloaded or cited. These "metrics" can then be used to determine an articles impact. The people who review the articles, don't get paid but can be credited via various online systems such as ORCID and Publons to acknowledge their work to the wider research community.

Since the turn of the millennium, the number of open access journals appearing in all fields of medicine and science has mushroomed. Public Medicine Central lists over 3400 such journal titles in its database of science and health journals hosting 5.9 million articles. Ultimately, this is all good news for the research consumer and meant a global reach for work which otherwise may have been on the dusty shelf read by a few curious subscribers to the journal.

This year sees the launch of another online, open-access dermatology journal (2) and so I thought a blog on the topic signposting colleagues to these resources would be worthwhile. So, below are a few selected, reputable journals which allow anyone with internet access to read and download published papers.

Before I start and cover some of these publications, I think it's important to mention that, as we are all aware, the internet holds a lot of information and finding quality articles is important. The websites I mention below here are all peer reviewed and published by reputable organisations and so you can be sure the information has been assessed by colleagues in the field prior to be accepted for publication and appearing on journal websites. This list is by no means all of the available journals but I am highlighting those particularly which can be relied upon for their high standards in publishing.

Dermatology Online Journal

The world's first open access journal just happened to be on the topic of dermatology. The journal began in 1995 so has a vast searchable library of articles. The site is organised by the Dermatology Department at UC Davis in Northern California.

The Skin in Health & Disease

Launched in 2021, “The skin in Health & Disease” is a sister journal to the British Journal of Dermatology. The journal publishes research articles, reviews, case reports, method papers, protocols, negative studies and pilot studies. It is published 4 times a year and contains articles that are free to read and download.

JAAD Cases

From the American Academy of Dermatology comes a journal which specifically hosts case reports on any dermatological affecting the skin, hair or nails. Historically, case reports used to feature in many traditional print dermatology journals but have since been relegated to open access publications as they tended to dilute research focused journals and ultimately threatened their international ranking or impact factors.

Dermatology Conceptual and Practical

If dermoscopy is your bag, then this journal is a must as the official publication of the International Dermoscopy Society. It started in 1995 as a print only journal covering dermatopathology. It took on this title in 2011 as the new editor, Professor Harald Kittler could see the future in dermoscopy and the need for a specific outlet of new research and publications particularly for those in primary care. There are lots of great articles if you are a dermatoscope user.

Case Reports in Dermatology

This reputable journal focuses on case reports and has so since 2009. Topics are published covering the entire spectrum of dermatology, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, toxicities of therapy, supportive care and quality-of-life.

JEADV Clinical Practice

(URL not allotted yet)

Publishing from March 2022

The latest open access journal which is going on line in March 2022. The journal belongs to the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology so will host much research from this geographical area, clinical cases and even quizzes.

In addition to these journals, some of the more traditional “closed” dermatology journals also make some of their papers open access. This is usually facilitated by the payment of a fee by the submitting author(s) but it means that sometimes key articles are fully accessible and can be downloaded. A search of their contents pages online usually reveals which ones have open access.


1. Huntley AC. Introducing Dermatology Online Journal. Dermatol Online J. 1995;1(1).

2. Torrelo A, Ring J. JEADV Clinical Practice: the new Open Access journal of the EADV. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2022;36(2):164-.


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