Delayed open access journals are journals in which the free availability of the content is available, but only after several months, with the immediate availability being limited to subscribers. By its nature, it applies only to electronic versions of journals. This variation on open access does not meet the standards for a true open access journal, and such journals are not included in the lists of open access journals, such as DOAJ. Nonetheless, it does provide useful access for many purposes. The term "delayed open access" can, in principle, be used for other material as well.
The purpose of this delay is to permit access to the general public, while still providing incentive to researchers -- and especially research libraries -- to continue their subscriptions. The assumptions behind this model are:
- researchers will want the most recent papers in their subject immediately after publication, and will therefore pay the necessary subscription cost, generally several hundred or several thousand dollars.
- students and others in smaller non-research institutions do not generally need to see the article as quickly, for they will be using it for a term paper or similar project, not for true research.
- the libraries serving such colleges will usually have discontinued such journals (or never subscribed to them) because of their cost. The publisher will thus lose no revenue.
- the marginal cost of distributing an electronic journal to additional users is very small; almost all of the expense is preparing the publication and its electronic version in the first place, and the publishers will therefore spend little additional money, while familiarizing undergraduates with their publications.
The difficulties with this model are
- it does not serve all academic readers. Those at small colleges also want to keep up with the current literature. In particular those there should be encouraged to be researchers in spite of the difficulties for not being in a major centre, and they would be further harmed by delayed access to the literature
- it will not serve key segments of the general public. The public readers of biomedical journals in particular are typically people concerned about particular diseases that they or their loved ones have. This segment of the public is interested in the current findings, for they will hear news of them.
- in some subjects the delay necessary to protect publishers would be very long, especially in some of the "softer" subjects.
Perhaps the leading platform for these journals is Highwire Press.
Many of the publishers of delayed open access journals are biomedical societies. This has been the case for several years, and it has in mid-2006 been stimulated by the public access requirements of several funding agencies, which accept delays of up to 6 or 12 months. Some commentators are willing to accept it as "almost open access", but most do not.