In this paper we present the first comprehensive bibliometric analysis of eleven open-access mega-journals (OAMJs). OAMJs are a relatively recent phenomenon, and have been characterised as having four key characteristics: large size; broad disciplinary scope; a Gold-OA business model; and a peer-review policy that seeks to determine only the scientific soundness of the research rather than evaluate the novelty or significance of the work. Our investigation focuses on four key modes of analysis: journal outputs (the number of articles published and changes in output over time); OAMJ author characteristics (nationalities and institutional affiliations); subject areas (the disciplinary scope of OAMJs, and variations in sub-disciplinary output); and citation profiles (the citation distributions of each OAMJ, and the impact of citing journals). We found that while the total output of the eleven mega-journals grew by 14.9% between 2014 and 2015, this growth is largely attributable to the increased output of Scientific Reports and Medicine. We also found substantial variation in the geographical distribution of authors. Several journals have a relatively high proportion of Chinese authors, and we suggest this may be linked to these journals’ high Journal Impact Factors (JIFs). The mega-journals were also found to vary in subject scope, with several journals publishing disproportionately high numbers of articles in certain sub-disciplines. Our citation analsysis offers support for Björk & Catani’s suggestion that OAMJs’s citation distributions can be similar to those of traditional journals, while noting considerable variation in citation rates across the eleven titles. We conclude that while the OAMJ term is useful as a means of grouping journals which share a set of key characteristics, there is no such thing as a “typical” mega-journal, and we suggest several areas for additional research that might help us better understand the current and future role of OAMJs in scholarly communication.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to better understand the theory and practice of peer review in open-access mega-journals (OAMJs). OAMJs typically operate a “soundness-only” review policy aiming to evaluate only the rigour of an article, not the novelty or significance of the research or its relevance to a particular community, with these elements being left for “the community to decide” post-publication. Design/methodology/approach The paper reports the results of interviews with 31 senior publishers and editors representing 16 different organisations, including 10 that publish an OAMJ. Thematic analysis was carried out on the data and an analytical model developed to explicate their significance. Findings Findings suggest that in reality criteria beyond technical or scientific soundness can and do influence editorial decisions. Deviations from the original OAMJ model are both publisher supported (in the form of requirements for an article to be “worthy” of publication) and practice driven (in the form of some reviewers and editors applying traditional peer review criteria to OAMJ submissions). Also publishers believe post-publication evaluation of novelty, significance and relevance remains problematic. Originality/value The study is based on unprecedented access to senior publishers and editors, allowing insight into their strategic and operational priorities. The paper is the first to report in-depth qualitative data relating specifically to soundness-only peer review for OAMJs, shedding new light on the OAMJ phenomenon and helping inform discussion on its future role in scholarly communication. The paper proposes a new model for understanding the OAMJ approach to quality assurance, and how it is different from traditional peer review.
Purpose Open-access mega-journals (OAMJs) represent an increasingly important part of the scholarly communication landscape. OAMJs, such as PLOS ONE, are large scale, broad scope journals that operate an open access business model (normally based on article-processing charges), and which employ a novel form of peer review, focussing on scientific “soundness” and eschewing judgement of novelty or importance. The purpose of this paper is to examine the discourses relating to OAMJs, and their place within scholarly publishing, and considers attitudes towards mega-journals within the academic community. Design/methodology/approach This paper presents a review of the literature of OAMJs structured around four defining characteristics: scale, disciplinary scope, peer review policy, and economic model. The existing scholarly literature was augmented by searches of more informal outputs, such as blogs and e-mail discussion lists, to capture the debate in its entirety. Findings While the academic literature relating specifically to OAMJs is relatively sparse, discussion in other fora is detailed and animated, with debates ranging from the sustainability and ethics of the mega-journal model, to the impact of soundness-only peer review on article quality and discoverability, and the potential for OAMJs to represent a paradigm-shifting development in scholarly publishing. Originality/value This paper represents the first comprehensive review of the mega-journal phenomenon, drawing not only on the published academic literature, but also grey, professional and informal sources. The paper advances a number of ways in which the role of OAMJs in the scholarly communication environment can be conceptualised.
This paper is the second of two Learned Publishing articles in which we report the results of a series of interviews, with senior publishers and editors exploring open access megajournals (OAMJs). Megajournals (of which PLoS One is the best known example) represent a relatively new approach to scholarly communication and can be characterized as large, broad-scope, open access journals, which take an innovative approach to peer review, basing acceptance decisions solely on the technical or scientific soundness of the article. Based on interviews with 31 publishers and editors, this paper reports the perceived cultural, operational, and technical challenges associated with launching, growing, and maintaining a megajournal. We find that overcoming these challenges while delivering the societal benefits associated with OAMJs is seen to require significant investment in people and systems, as well as an ongoing commitment to the model.
Open‐access mega‐journals (OAMJs) are characterized by their large scale, wide scope, open‐access (OA) business model, and “soundness‐only” peer review. The last of these controversially discounts the novelty, significance, and relevance of submitted articles and assesses only their “soundness.” This article reports the results of an international survey of authors (n = 11,883), comparing the responses of OAMJ authors with those of other OA and subscription journals, and drawing comparisons between different OAMJs. Strikingly, OAMJ authors showed a low understanding of soundness‐only peer review: two‐thirds believed OAMJs took into account novelty, significance, and relevance, although there were marked geographical variations. Author satisfaction with OAMJs, however, was high, with more than 80% of OAMJ authors saying they would publish again in the same journal, although there were variations by title, and levels were slightly lower than subscription journals (over 90%). Their reasons for choosing to publish in OAMJs included a wide variety of factors, not significantly different from reasons given by authors of other journals, with the most important including the quality of the journal and quality of peer review. About half of OAMJ articles had been submitted elsewhere before submission to the OAMJ with some evidence of a “cascade” of articles between journals from the same publisher.
which publish a megajournal), this paper reports how the term 'megajournal' is understood and publishers' rationale and motivations for launching (or not launching) an OAMJ. We find that while there is general agreement on the common characteristics of megajournals, there is not yet a consensus on their relative importance. We also find seven motivating factors that were said to drive the launch of an OAMJ and link each of these factors to potential societal and business benefits. These results suggest that the often polarized debate surrounding OAMJs is a consequence of the extent to which observers perceive publishers to be motivated by these societal or business benefits.
Abstract:Open-Access Mega-Journals (OAMJs) are a relatively new and increasingly important publishing phenomenon. The journal Medicine is in the unique position of having transitioned in 2014 from being a 'traditional' highly-selective journal to the OAMJ model. This study compares the bibliometric profile of the journal Medicine before and after its transition to the OAMJ model. Three standard modes of bibliometric analysis are employed, based on data from Web of Science: journal output volume, author characteristics, and citation analysis. The journal's article output is seen to have grown hugely since its conversion to an OAMJ, a rise driven in large part by authors from China. Articles published since 2015 have fewer citations, and are cited by lower impact journals than articles published before the OAMJ transition. The adoption of the OAMJ model has completely changed the bibliometric profile of the journal, raising questions about the impact of OAMJ peer-review practices. In many respects, the post-2014 version of Medicine is best viewed as a new journal rather than a continuation of the original title.
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