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


Fairness in scientific publishing

Author : Philippa C. Matthews

Major changes are afoot in the world of academic publishing, exemplified by innovations in publishing platforms, new approaches to metrics, improvements in our approach to peer review, and a focus on developing and encouraging open access to scientific literature and data.

The FAIR acronym recommends that authors and publishers should aim to make their output Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. In this opinion article, I explore the parallel view that we should take a collective stance on making the dissemination of scientific data fair in the conventional sense, by being mindful of equity and justice for patients, clinicians, academics, publishers, funders and academic institutions.

The views I represent are founded on oral and written dialogue with clinicians, academics and the publishing industry. Further progress is needed to improve collaboration and dialogue between these groups, to reduce misinterpretation of metrics, to minimise inequity that arises as a consequence of geographic setting, to improve economic sustainability, and to broaden the spectrum, scope, and diversity of scientific publication.

URL : Fairness in scientific publishing


Joining Networks in the World of Open Science

Author : Riitta Maijala

Whereas the first digital revolution of science by digitisation changed the scientific practices of data collection, analysis and reporting of results, the second digital revolution, i.e. open science, will also challenge the current roles of researchers, research  organisations, libraries and publishers.

From the early days of development, research libraries have joined different networks
and been among the most active stakeholders working towards open science. Cohesive networks are needed for coordinated actions and support, whereas bridging networks can provide new approaches and novel information.

The Finnish Open Science and Research Initiative is presented in this paper as an example of joining networks, motivating individuals and organisations to deliver high-quality services, infrastructures and competence building to promote a transition towards open science.

This paper also presents milestones such as the publication of the academic publishing costs of Finnish research organisations and the maturity level of open science operating cultures in HEIs.

Based on the experience of the Finnish open science initiative, joining different networks at the national level on an open mode of operation can significantly speed up the transition towards the era of open science.

URL : Joining Networks in the World of Open Science

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Innovation and Market Discipline in Scholarly Publishing

Author : Rowland Lorimer


In the face of extensive, developed-world library endorsement of open access (OA) and not-for-profit publishing, large commercial journal publishers are, paradoxically, increasing market share by means of economies of scale brought about in part by ownership concentration.


While the market success of commercial journal publishers may benefit from ownership concentration, it is argued that market-oriented innovation has also contributed to their market success.

A review of the very lively state of market-oriented innovation in journal publishing and usage metrics is undertaken and three innovation proposals derived from commercial magazines are introduced.

Conclusion and implications

The adoption of reader-focused features of commercial journals and the adaptation of the mobile-oriented strategy of commercial magazine publishers that respond to the modern digital information environment and mindset are recommended as strategically sound.

Partnering with low-cost promoting, OA-oriented libraries may hobble the ability of not-for-profit journals to maximize their value to researchers.


The weakness of OA as a constraining publishing strategy is brought forward and compared to readership building through innovation focused on usage.

URL : Innovation and Market Discipline in Scholarly Publishing

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Etude critique des nouveaux modes « d’éditorialisation » de revues scientifiques en accès-ouvert

Auteur/Author : Pierre-Carl Langlais

Ce rapport commandé par BSN 4 et BSN 7 porte sur les nouveaux modes d’éditorialisation des revues en accès ouvert. La transition vers le libre accès s’est accélérée au cours de ces dernières années.

Plusieurs pays ont instauré un cadre légal pour sécuriser le dépôt en archive ouverte (en France, une disposition de ce type est intégrée au projet de loi sur le Numérique). En mai 2016 le conseil de l’Union Européenne a appelé à faire du libre accès une “option par défaut” d’ici 2020 dans l’ensemble des pays-membres.

Si la conversion de l’édition scientifique vers la diffusion en libre accès paraît acquise à court terme, ses modalités restent incertaines : se limite-t-elle à un simple transfert des budgets consacrés aux abonnements vers le paiement de droits à publier sans fondamentalement changer les structures éditoriales existantes (ou journal flipping) ?

Ou fait-elle émerger des modèles inédits, qui reconfigurent l’ensemble des paramètres existants ? Cette dynamique de changement ouvre la perspective de réformes à grande échelle.

La commande initiale s’inscrit dans ce cadre : quelles formes éditoriales l’État peut-il encourager à l’heure du numérique, de la mutation de l’édition scientifique et de la faillite de l’évaluation scientifique ?

Le rapport dresse une cartographie des pratiques et des initiatives émergentes qui s’étend dans quatre dimensions : les outils d’édition, les formes d’écriture, l’évaluation, et les modèles économiques.

Notre dernière partie porte un constat plus global : dans un écosystème aussi « interdépendant » que l’édition scientifique numérique, cette transformation impliquerait la mise en œuvre de politiques d’infrastructure qui, au-delà du soutien d’usages ou d’outils spécifiques définiraient des articulations convergentes entre dispositifs, acteurs et pratiques.

URL : Etude critique des nouveaux modes « d’éditorialisation » de revues scientifiques en accès-ouvert

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Researchers’ Individual Publication Rate Has Not Increased in a Century

Authors : Daniele Fanelli, Vincent Larivière

Debates over the pros and cons of a “publish or perish” philosophy have inflamed academia for at least half a century. Growing concerns, in particular, are expressed for policies that reward “quantity” at the expense of “quality,” because these might prompt scientists to unduly multiply their publications by fractioning (“salami slicing”), duplicating, rushing, simplifying, or even fabricating their results.

To assess the reasonableness of these concerns, we analyzed publication patterns of over 40,000 researchers that, between the years 1900 and 2013, have published two or more papers within 15 years, in any of the disciplines covered by the Web of Science.

The total number of papers published by researchers during their early career period (first fifteen years) has increased in recent decades, but so has their average number of co-authors. If we take the latter factor into account, by measuring productivity fractionally or by only counting papers published as first author, we observe no increase in productivity throughout the century.

Even after the 1980s, adjusted productivity has not increased for most disciplines and countries. These results are robust to methodological choices and are actually conservative with respect to the hypothesis that publication rates are growing.

Therefore, the widespread belief that pressures to publish are causing the scientific literature to be flooded with salami-sliced, trivial, incomplete, duplicated, plagiarized and false results is likely to be incorrect or at least exaggerated.

URL : Researchers’ Individual Publication Rate Has Not Increased in a Century


Do Younger Researchers Assess Trustworthiness Differently when Deciding what to Read and Cite and where to Publish?

Authors : David Nicholas, Hamid R. Jamali, Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Carol Tenopir, Rachel Volentine, Suzie Allard, Kenneth Levine

An international survey of over 3600 academic researchers examined how trustworthiness is determined when making decisions on scholarly reading, citing, and publishing in the digital age and whether social media and open access publications are having an impact on judgements.

In general, the study found that traditional scholarly methods and criteria remain important across the board. However, there are significant differences between younger (age 30 & under) and older researchers (over 30).

Thus younger researchers: a) expend less effort to obtain information and more likely to compromise on quality in their selections; b) view open access publishing much more positively as it offers them more choices and helps to establish their reputation more quickly; c) compensate for their lack of experience by relying more heavily on trust markers and proxies, such as impact factors; d) use all the outlets available in order to improve the chances of getting their work published and, in this respect, make the most use of the social media with which they are more familiar.