One of the great difficulties of completing graduate school was losing free access to an enormous range of peer-reviewed scientific journals and articles. Of course, access was not actually “free” considering that I was paying tuition, but it felt as though it was free. I accessed JSTOR, Web Of Science (via Endnote), and many resources daily during graduate school. Any time I had a question that I wanted to know more about I could delve into a vast repository of information. Losing access to that was like losing one of my senses and detrimental to following my interests post-graduate school.
The United States has a particular problem when it comes to science communication and access to scientific articles. Much of the research done in the US is, at least in part, publicly funded, particularly in my field of conservation and ecology. Despite taxpayer money going to pay for the research, the results of this research are often hidden behind pay-walls where it is not at all uncommon for access to s single article to be $35. Many of the scientific journals charge at both ends, researchers are required to pay the journal for the privileged of submitting their work to the journal which then sells that that work to others, pulling in money from both the producers of knowledge and the consumers of knowledge.
News reports often focus on the lack of scientific literacy in the US and assume that this is due to a lack of interest and motivation to learn. In my experience this is not the case. Nearly everyone I meet is very interested in various branches of science and online science forums are heavily visited (the Reddit r/science page for example), but most people have no idea where to go to get accurate scientific information, and even if they do the articles are often not accessible.
Some countries, such as the UK, have begun changing information access policies, making all tax-payer funded research open access to the tax payers. This is, in my opinion, long overdue and vital if we wish for the upcoming generations of citizens to be scientifically literate.
Unfortunately, in the US we are not yet so forward thinking.
Despite this there is a large number of open access, peer reviewed journals available, some quite good. Recently I decided to begin compiling a list of some of these on topics I find interesting. Clearly the main subjects are ecology, conservation, and the like. These journals are from all around the world. Most of the ones on this list are in English, or are bilingual. Over time I will be expanding this list, and clearly this is only, and will always be, a partial list of the vast array of free resources available online.
One source, listed first and separately, is the Directory of Open Access Journals, a large repository of links to both journals and articles with a very good search option that allows one to search numerous journals for articles on specific topics and in specific languages.
For any of you on the author side of the science publication game, many of these journals do have author fees, but they are not nearly as high as the non-open access journals.
One further note of caution, especially for authors. Apparently there is little regulation in the setting up of a journal and some unscrupulous types have gotten into the game. Jeffery Beall has a list of what he calls “predatory journals” on his site. I have not checked these publications myself, so I cannot speak to the veracity of the claim. What constitutes a “predatory” journal is a good question and a case can be made for many of the more well known and established non-open access journals to be considered predatory, but for the purposes of Jeffery Beall’s list the criteria he used is explained on this page: Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers (2nd edition).
Directory of Open Access Journals
Approximately 10,000 open access journals with search function for both journals and articles
This is a general purpose science writing site aimed at getting scientists to write lay-person friendly summaries of their research
Acta Geographica Debrecina. Landscape and Environment Series
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Annali di Botanica
Asian Journal of Conservation Biology
Avian Conservation and Ecology
European Geosciences Union
(formerly ACTA ZOOLOGICA SINICA)
Ecology and Evolution
Part of the ESA Journals system
Environmental Systems Research
Frontiers of Biogeography
Herpetological Conservation and Biology
Ideas in Ecology and Evolution
International Journal of Ecology
part of the Hindawi Publishing Corporation out of Egypt
International Society for Tropical Ecology
Journal of Biodiversity and Ecological Sciences
Journal of Ecosystems
part of the Hindawi Publishing Corporation out of Egypt (Spanish language)
Journal of Threatened Taxa
Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases
Journal of Vietnamese Environment
Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science
Madagascar Conservation and Development
NAMMCO Scientific Publications
Focused on alien species and biological invasions
West Australia focus
The Open Ecology Journal
Pachyderm : Journal of the African Elephant, African Rhino and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups
This is the index page to a wide range of PLOS One subjects
Revista Sociedade & Natureza
Brazilian – Portuguese and English
USFS searchable database of publications
Tropical Conservation Science
via the European Ecological Federation
Wildlife Biology in Practice
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS)
Lakes Reservoirs and Ponds
Mires and Peat
Pan American Journal of Aquatic Sciences
Life Sciences and Biomedicine
Ethnobiology and Conservation
Ethnobotany Research and Applications
Communicating Astronomy with the Public
International Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Atmospheric and Climate Sciences
British Journal of Environment and Climate Change
Climate of the Past
European Geosciences Union