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Open-Access Mega-journals - STM conference, 2016, Frankfurt

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In this presentation prepared for the 2016 STM conference in Frankfurt, Stephen Pinfield presents the latest developments of the Open-Access Mega-Journals project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK)

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Open-Access Mega-journals - STM conference, 2016, Frankfurt

  1. 1. Open-Access Mega-Journals: Research in Progress Stephen Pinfield University of Sheffield, UK Claire Creaser, Jenny Fry, Valérie Spezi (Loughborough University) Simon Wakeling, Peter Willett (University of Sheffield)
  2. 2. The Mega-Journals Controversy Positive views: • Joseph Esposito (2010) argued, “I think PLoS One points to the future of academic publishing” • Richard Wellen (2013) identifies OA mega-journals as having (some of) the characteristics of “disruptive innovation” with the potential to contribute to major change • Jean Claude Guédon (2015) in commenting on the future of scholarly communication, stated, “Subsidized mega-journals would be the best system…” Negative views: • John Hawley (quoted in Butler, 2008) voiced the fear that PLOS ONE would be a “dumping ground” for “sub-standard” content – a criticism levelled at all mega-journals • Declan Butler (2008) labelled PLOS ONE a “cash cow” sustained through “bulk publishing” • Kent Anderson (2010) criticised them for dispensing with the valuable filtering of conventional journals 2
  3. 3. Open-Access Mega-Journals Project http://oamj.org/ • 2-year collaboration between Sheffield and Loughborough universities (Nov 2015-Oct 2017) • Funded by UK AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) • Investigating: “The principal characteristics of the emergent open-access ‘mega-journal’ phenomenon and its significance for the academic research community and beyond” • Using quantitative and qualitative methods 3
  4. 4. Defining ‘Mega-Journals’ • Fully-open access – Often with an APC-based business model • Large scale – e.g. PLOS ONE (launched in 2006) – the largest journal in the world for a number of years, 31,404 articles in 2013 (in Scopus) – but many mega-journals are newer and are not large scale (yet) • Wide scope – e.g. PLOS ONE and Scientific Reports cover all science, technology and medicine (STM) disciplines, SAGE Open covers all humanities and social sciences (HSS) – AIP Advances covers all of Physics • Particular approach to quality control – Pre-publication peer review based on scientific ‘soundness’ rather than ‘subjective’ assessments of ‘novelty’, ‘importance’, or ‘interest’ – Post-publication metrics – the scientific community ‘decides’ novelty and importance by use, citation, etc 4
  5. 5. Mega-Journal Growth Total number of articles published in 11 mega-journals (PLOS ONE, Scientific Reports, BMC Research Notes, BMJ Open, AIP Advances, Medicine, SpringerPlus, PeerJ, SAGE Open, F1000 Research and FEBS Open Bio) – those indexed in Scopus since at least 2013 – includes projected figures for 2016 (doubling outputs to June) • PLOS ONE launched in 2006 • Other titles launched mostly from 2011 • Output dominated by PLOS ONE but PLOS ONE showing a decline 2013-15 • Nature’s Scientific Reports increasing over the period; overtook PLOS ONE monthly outputs for the first time in Sept 2016 (SR: 1,940; PO: 1,756) • Other titles growing (if at all) more slowly 5
  6. 6. Among mega-journals publishing 2013, Scientific Reports has the lowest proportion of infrequently cited articles Question: Why do all these journals which operate soundness-only peer review policies have such different citation distributions (and JIFs)? • Subject variations? • De facto differences in peer review practices? • The result of cascade from other journals within a single publisher portfolio? • Publisher and journal reputation? What Does This Tell Us About Mega-Journals? 6 Cumulative citation distributions for 7 OAMJs (articles published in 2013)
  7. 7. Subject Variations 7 • Well known differences in citation rates between disciplines • Variations in intended scope – Everything: Heliyon, SpringerPlus – Across disciplines – STM: PLOS ONE, Scientific Reports – HSS: SAGE Open, Open Library of the Humanities – Single discipline: BMJ Open, AIP Advances • Variations in actual published content – Bibliometric analysis suggests Scientific Reports has much higher proportion of Physics and Astronomy articles than PLOS ONE; PLOS ONE disproportionately high numbers of papers on Biomedicine – PeerJ appears to have large number of Ecology and Bioinformatics articles
  8. 8. Differences in Peer Review Practices 8 • Stated peer review policies are very similar • Interviews with publishers and editors reveal potential differences in interpretation – There may inconsistency amongst reviewers in their understanding of “scientific soundness” – Publishers have different approaches to monitoring editorial decisions and ensuring consistency – Novelty still a criteria for some OAMJs (e.g. AIP Advances) – Different perspectives on “trivial” research: introduces subjectivity to objective peer review?
  9. 9. Cascade Policies 9 • Most OAMJs utilise some form of cascade from other journals in the publisher portfolio • Retaining articles (and their APCs) from articles rejected by other journals clearly a motivating factor in the founding of some OAMJs • Interviews reveal variations in proportion of OAMJ articles that originate as submissions to other journals in the portfolio (from 10% to 40%) • Need to better understand how authors view cascade offers, and what motivates their decisions
  10. 10. Publisher and Journal Reputation 10 • Some OAMJs clearly benefit from publisher reputation (Scientific Reports) or name recognition (PLOS ONE) • Reputation also linked to Journal Impact Factor, which varies greatly among OAMJs (2014 figures) – Scientific Reports 5.578 – PLOS ONE 2.885 – BMJ Open 2.271 – PeerJ 1.978 • Interesting potentially cyclical relationship between submission rates and impact factor (high JIF = more submissions = lower JIF)
  11. 11. Highly-selective title(s) Tiered Model and Economic Sustainability 11 ‘Soundness-only’ selective mega-journal Financial subsidy Reputational subsidy Requires strong brand association between the high- prestige title(s) and mega-journal e.g. sharing name Requires willingness to allow a cross- subsidy, rather than operating high- prestige title as subscription journal
  12. 12. Publications • Pinfield, S. (2016). Mega-journals: The future, a stepping stone to it or a leap into the abyss? Times Higher Education Online, 13 October. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/mega-journals-future-stepping- stone-it-or-leap-abyss • Spezi, V., Wakeling, S., Pinfield, S., Creaser, C., Fry, J. & Willett, P. (forthcoming) ‘Open-access mega-journals: The future of scholarly communication or academic dumping ground? A review’, Journal of Documentation (In press). doi: 10.1108/JD-06-2016-0082. • Wakeling, S., Willett, P., Creaser, C., Fry, J., Pinfield, S., & Spezi, V. (forthcoming). Open-access mega-journals: A bibliometric profile. 12
  13. 13. Acknowledgements: Open-Access Mega-Journals Project University of Sheffield • Stephen Pinfield (PI) • Simon Wakeling (RA) • Peter Willett (Co-I) Loughborough University • Claire Creaser (Co-I) • Jenny Fry (Co-I) • Valérie Spezi (RA) http://oamj.org/ @OAMJ_Project