Transitioning from a Conventional to a ‘Mega’ Journal: A Bibliometric Case Study of the Journal Medicine

Authors : Simon Wakeling, Peter Willett, Claire Creaser, Jenny Fry , Stephen Pinfield, Valerie Spezi

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.

URL : Transitioning from a Conventional to a ‘Mega’ Journal: A Bibliometric Case Study of the Journal Medicine


Open-access mega-journals: The future of scholarly communication or academic dumping ground? A review


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.


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.


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.


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.

URL : Open-access mega-journals: The future of scholarly communication or academic dumping ground? A review


Open-Access Mega-Journals: A Bibliometric Profile

Authors : Simon Wakeling, Peter Willett, Claire Creaser, Jenny Fry, Stephen Pinfield, Valérie Spezi

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.

URL : Open-Access Mega-Journals: A Bibliometric Profile


Entre science légitime et science amateur : le devenir trivial d’une information scientifique sur Internet

À partir de l’exemple d’un article scientifique publié dans la revue américaine en ligne PLoS ONE, on montre que la circulation d’une information scientifique sur le Net peut rapidement et massivement déborder des cadres habituels de la diffusion de la culture scientifique (médias, passeurs individuels et collectifs labellisés…). Cette recherche interroge ce que le « devenir trivial » d’une information scientifique dit des relations connaissances scientifiques/vulgarisation, science légitime/science amateur et plus généralement sciences/société.

Car si la circulation d’un « être culturel » hors de son champ de pertinence trouve un terreau fécond au sein même de la sphère scientifique, ses frontières avec les sphères profanes sont également autant des coupures que des coutures.


Peer review in megajournals compared with traditional scholarly journals: Does it make a difference?

A megajournal is an open-access journal that publishes any manuscript that presents scientifically trustworthy empirical results, without asking about the potential scientific contribution prior to publication. Megajournals have rapidly increased their output and are currently publishing around 50,000 articles per year.

We report on a small pilot study in which we looked at the citation distributions for articles in megajournals compared with journals with traditional peer review, which also evaluate articles for contribution and novelty.We found that elite journals with very low acceptance rates have far fewer articles with no or few citations, but that the long tail of articles with two citations or less was actually bigger in a sample of selective traditional journals in comparison with megajournals.

This indicates the need for more systematic studies, because the results raise many questions as to how efficiently the current peer review system in reality fulfils its filtering function.


Have the “mega-journals” reached the limits to growth?

« A “mega-journal” is a new type of scientific journal that publishes freely accessible articles, which have been peer reviewed for scientific trustworthiness, but leaves it to the readers to decide which articles are of interest and importance to them. In the wake of the phenomenal success of PLOS ONE, several other publishers have recently started mega-journals. This article presents the evolution of mega-journals since 2010 in terms of article publication rates. The fastest growth seems to have ebbed out at around 35,000 annual articles for the 14 journals combined. Acceptance rates are in the range of 50–70%, and speed of publication is around 3–5 months. Common features in mega-journals are alternative impact metrics, easy reusability of figures and data, post-publication discussions and portable reviews from other journals. »

URL :  Have the “mega-journals” reached the limits to growth?


A survey of authors publishing in four megajournals

« Aim. To determine the characteristics of megajournal authors, the nature of the manuscripts they are submitting to these journals, factors influencing their decision to publish in a megajournal, sources of funding for article processing charges (APCs) or other fees and their likelihood of submitting to a megajournal in the future.

Methods. Web-based survey of 2,128 authors who recently published in BMJ Open, PeerJ, PLOS ONE or SAGE Open.

Results. The response rate ranged from 26% for BMJ Open to 47% for SAGE Open. The authors were international, largely academics who had recently published in both subscription and Open Access (OA) journals. Across journals about 25% of the articles were preliminary findings and just under half were resubmissions of manuscripts rejected by other journals. Editors from other BMJ journals and perhaps to a lesser extent SAGE and PLOS journals appear to be encouraging authors to submit manuscripts that were rejected by the editor’s journals to a megajournal published by the same publisher. Quality of the journal and speed of the review process were important factors across all four journals. Impact factor was important for PLOS ONE authors but less so for BMJ Open authors, which also has an impact factor. The review criteria and the fact the journal was OA were other significant factors particularly important for PeerJ authors. The reputation of the publisher was an important factor for SAGE Open and BMJ Open. About half of PLOS ONE and around a third of BMJ Open and PeerJ authors used grant funding for publishing charges while only about 10% of SAGE Open used grant funding for publication charges. Around 60% of SAGE Open and 32% of PeerJ authors self-funded their publication fees however the fees are modest for these journals. The majority of authors from all 4 journals were pleased with their experience and indicated they were likely to submit to the same or similar journal in the future.

Conclusions. Megajournals are drawing an international group of authors who tend to be experienced academics. They are choosing to publish in megajournals for a variety of reasons but most seem to value the quality of the journal and the speed of the review/publication process. Having a broad scope was not a key factor for most authors though being OA was important for PeerJ and SAGE Open authors. Most authors appeared pleased with the experience and indicated they are likely to submit future manuscripts to the same or similar megajournal which seems to suggest these journals will continue to grow in popularity. »

URL : A survey of authors publishing in four megajournals
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