Cochrane and Open Access

Cochrane’s vision is for everyone to have free and unlimited access to the thousands of systematic reviews in the Cochrane Library. This vision is not far from becoming reality. Right now, Cochrane evidence is freely available through the review abstracts and plain-language summaries, published in multiple languages, including English and French. Whether you are interested in knowing if cranberries prevent urinary tract infections or if vitamin C will help with your cold, you can find the answer.

In 2013, the international Cochrane Collaboration implemented a “green” open access policy. This means that for one year after publication, a Cochrane review is accessible either through a subscription to the Cochrane Library or by paying for one-time access. After one year, the review is open to all. The only exception is a review that is released for free access immediately. Cochrane Canada has applied this same approach for many years in order to comply with CIHR’s policy on open access. The green open access approach is a stepping stone, and Cochrane aims to achieve full open access by 2020.


Many countries pay for a national license so that all of their citizens have access to the over 6,000 systematic reviews in the Cochrane Library, including immediate access to newly published reviews. Cochrane waves the licensing fee for countries classified as low or low-middle income by the World Bank.  Canada does not pay for a national license. This is why the whole library is not accessible and there is a one-year delay for many of the newly published reviews. Several Canadian institutions purchase their own licenses. This combined expenditure would come very close to the cost of a national license and would open the entire Cochrane Library to all Canadians.