Free online journal publishing has come a step closer with the announcement of a ground-breaking deal for biological and medical research publications.
The deal with open-access publisher BioMed Central will make more than 90 peer-reviewed journals freely accessible to all UK higher education staff. More could be made available in time.
University libraries currently spend more than £76 million subscribing to the scholarly journals that publish the research carried out by their academics.
The Joint Information Systems Committee, which is made up of the funding councils and other UK further and higher education bodies, brokered the deal on behalf of 180 UK institutions.
Alicia Wise, Jisc's head of development, said: "This ground-breaking deal represents a major shift in the way that research is undertaken and its outputs published and shared."
BioMed Central's business model usually involves researchers paying £350 to get a paper published online, making the content free at the point of delivery to members. But under the deal with Jisc, the publishing fee will be waived.
This is particularly helpful in expanding access to research to academics in poor countries who would normally find the costs of commercially published journals prohibitive.
Jan Velterop, BioMed Central's publisher, said: "Unrestricted access to the majority of UK biomedical research output is now a very real possibility.
This represents our largest deal to date and is a sure sign that the tide has turned to embrace open access."