Our open access strategy

Cochrane's Open Access commitment

An update on Cochrane's plans for open access.


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Why is open access important to Cochrane?

Strategy for Change re-confirms Cochrane's commitment to open access. By 2025 at the latest Cochrane will achieve universal open access to Cochrane systematic reviews immediately on publication for both new and updated reviews. The strategy commits to do this without placing the financial burden on review authors and without risking the financial sustainability of the Charity. This page explains how we plan to do that. 

Open access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to re-use these outputs fully. Open access is at the heart of Cochrane's mission and provides an opportunity to deliver our strategic goal to inform health and care decisions by making our evidence accessible, usable and available to all. Open access will allow everyone to benefit from reading and using our evidence, will enable results to be disseminated more rapidly and widely, and will help to accelerate research and the use of evidence in policy and practice.

Cochrane is proud of the free access offering we have established since 2013, with all Cochrane Reviews freely available 12 month's after publication and all protocols freely available on publication. We also have several national access programmes which include national licenses and philanthropic access in low- and middle-income countries. For an overview of Cochrane's current open access policy for Cochrane Reviews please see here.


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Why do we need a three-to-four-year roadmap to deliver open access?

Cochrane is in the process of assessing how we find a sustainable business model for open access so that we can be prepared for an open access future. Our roadmap to open access started in 2021 and aims to deliver open access for all Cochrane Reviews by 2025.

The Cochrane Governing Board recognise that achieving full open access for all Cochrane Reviews by 2025 is a challenging objective but the proposed timeline will give us time to support a planned and sustainable move to open access. Key considerations include:

  • Time to manage a publishing business model change of this scale as currently 80% of Cochrane's central income is from our publishing income.
  • Our 2021 review and analysis of current open access business models confirms that none are suitable as ‘off the shelf' solutions, but the opportunity exists to adapt and innovate these models. Working with our stakeholders to understand how we can adapt and combine models is the focus of our work in 2022.
  • Cochrane will see a reduction in publishing income from any open access business model we move to. This means that we need time to implement changes in our review production and publishing systems and processes to reduce our cost base accordingly. 
  • We will also be investing in product development opportunities for the Cochrane Library that could help subsidise open access by increasing the value of our non-open access content and allow us to continue with a subscription product. Some development initiatives will take time to deliver and validate.
  • The expected reduction in publishing income means that Cochrane is looking to diversity our funding so that we can reduce our dependency on publishing income by 2025. As part of our revenue diversification plans Cochrane is investing in a new fundraising strategy and we are looking to increase the commercialisation of Cochrane's other products and consider investment in new product opportunities. However, investment now in fundraising and diversification will take time to deliver returns.

Cochrane is proactively looking for a sustainable open access funding model and will work with our funders and key stakeholders to ensure that the final model and timing of the transition does not put Cochrane at risk and protects the unique value Cochrane provides to the world – supporting evidence based decision making through the production and dissemination of trusted, high quality, timely and relevant systematic reviews.


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How is Cochrane responding in 2022?

Cochrane is running a research and consultation project that started in 2021 and will run through to October 2022 to identify a viable business model and pathway to open access. The transition plan due to be approved by the Cochrane Governing Board by the end of the year will confirm how Cochrane could deliver full open access for Cochrane Reviews from 2025, the business models that could support this, and the impact and implications this would have on Cochrane's future income and review production and publishing process and costs.

The project is being led by Charlotte Pestridge, Director of Publishing and Technology, working with the Cochrane Library product and publishing teams, and with guidance and oversight from an Open Access Working Group made up of Cochrane Governing Board and Council members. We have also engaged an open access consultant, Virginia Barbour, to help scope, guide, assess and validate our open access work. Virginia is the Director of Open Access Australasia and a Plan S ambassador.

During the research and consultation phase we will be engaging and consulting with the following Cochrane stakeholder and expert groups:

  • Cochrane funders
  • Cochrane authors and their affiliated institutions
  • Cochrane Library subscription and national license customers
  • Publishing industry and open access experts
  • Other societies, journals and publishers transitioning to open access

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Want to know more about Cochrane's open access project?

We believe the approach set out above will ensure we can deliver on our open access commitment.  If you have any questions, want to comment on Cochrane's open access plans, be part of the consultation process or be more actively involved in Cochrane's open access project please contact openaccess@cochrane.org.

Over the next few months we will share more information about our open access research and consultation project including:

  1. The open access models we are researching and considering
  2. The product development we are planning for the Cochrane Library
  3. Findings from the open access consultation with key stakeholders 
  4. Update on Cochrane's revenue and funding diversification strategy and plans