Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era

Authors : Fei Shu, Philippe Mongeon, Stefanie Haustein, Kyle Siler, Juan Pablo Alperin, Vincent Larivière

Commercial scholarly publishers promote and sell bundles of journals—known as big deals—that provide access to entire collections rather than individual journals. Following this new model, size of serial collections in academic libraries increased almost fivefold from 1986 to 2011.

Using data on library subscriptions and references made for a sample of North American universities, this study provides evidence that, while big deal bundles do decrease the mean price per subscribed journal, academic libraries receive less value for their investment.

We find that university researchers cite only a fraction of journals purchased by their libraries, that this fraction is decreasing, and that the cost per cited journal has increased.

These findings reveal how academic publishers use product differentiation and price strategies to increase sales and profits in the digital era, often at the expense of university and scientific stakeholders.

URL : Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era


Gender and international diversity improves equity in peer review

Authors : Dakota Murray, Kyle Siler, Vincent Lariviére, Wei Mun Chan, Andrew M. Collings, Jennifer Raymond, Cassidy R Sugimoto

The robustness of scholarly peer review has been challenged by evidence of disparities in publication outcomes based on author’s gender and nationality. To address this, we examine the peer review outcomes of 23,873 initial submissions and 7,192 full submissions that were submitted to the biosciences journal eLife between 2012 and 2017.

Women and authors from nations outside of North America and Europe were underrepresented both as gatekeepers (editors and peer reviewers) and last authors. We found a homophilic interaction between the demographics of the gatekeepers and authors in determining the outcome of peer review; that is, gatekeepers favor manuscripts from authors of the same gender and from the same country.

The acceptance rate for manuscripts with male last authors was significantly higher than for female last authors, and this gender inequity was greatest when the team of reviewers was all male; mixed-gender gatekeeper teams lead to more equitable peer review outcomes.

Similarly, manuscripts were more likely to be accepted when reviewed by at least one gatekeeper with the same national affiliation as the corresponding author. Our results indicated that homogeneity between author and gatekeeper gender and nationality is associated with the outcomes of scientific peer review.

We conclude with a discussion of mechanisms that could contribute to this effect, directions for future research, and policy implications. Code and anonymized data have been made available at

URL : Gender and international diversity improves equity in peer review


Mesurer la science

Auteurs/Authors : Vincent Larivière, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

L’ensemble de la communauté scientifique réclame depuis plusieurs années des indicateurs fiables permettant de mesurer les répercussions de la recherche. La ferveur inégalée autour de la mesure de l’influence de la recherche, combinée avec les nouveaux modes de diffusion des connaissances à l’ère numérique, a révolu­tionné le domaine de la scientométrie.

Il s’agit là d’une discipline qui comprend toutes les façons dont nous collectons les documents savants et analysons quantitativement leur production ainsi que leurs usages, des citations aux tweets. Les données et les indicateurs ainsi recueillis sont utilisés pour comprendre la science, stimuler la recherche ou distribuer les ressources.

Curieusement, il n’existe aucun ouvrage qui explique les fonde­ments historiques, les concepts et les sources de la scientométrie, ou qui en fournirait une critique éclairée ou même qui formulerait des recommandations pour un usage optimal. D’où l’importance de celui-ci.

À sa façon, chacun est un acteur de la société du savoir et devrait se soucier des outils qui aident à guider son évolution : c’est pourquoi ce livre s’adresse à tous, savants comme profanes.


Vanishing industries and the rising monopoly of universities in published research

Authors : Vincent Larivière, Benoit Macaluso, Philippe Mongeon, Kyle Siler, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

Anecdotes abound regarding the decline of basic research in industrial and governmental settings, but very little empirical evidence exists about the phenomenon. This article provides a systematic and historical analysis of the contribution of various institutional sectors to knowledge production at the world and country levels across the past four decades.

It highlights a dramatic decline in the diffusion of basic research by industrial and governmental sectors across all countries—with a corresponding increase in the share from universities—as well as an increase of partnerships between universities and other sectors.

Results also shows an increase in the relative share of industries in applied research, as measured through patents. Such divergence in university and industry research activities may hinder industries’ ability to translate basic knowledge into technological innovation, and could lead to a growing misalignment between doctoral training and future job expectations.

Industries and universities must rethink strategies for partnerships and publishing to maximize scientific progress and to ensure the greatest gains for society.

URL : Vanishing industries and the rising monopoly of universities in published research


The Journal Impact Factor: A brief history, critique, and discussion of adverse effects

Authors : Vincent Lariviere, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

The Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is, by far, the most discussed bibliometric indicator. Since its introduction over 40 years ago, it has had enormous effects on the scientific ecosystem: transforming the publishing industry, shaping hiring practices and the allocation of resources, and, as a result, reorienting the research activities and dissemination practices of scholars.

Given both the ubiquity and impact of the indicator, the JIF has been widely dissected and debated by scholars of every disciplinary orientation. Drawing on the existing literature as well as on original research, this chapter provides a brief history of the indicator and highlights well-known limitations-such as the asymmetry between the numerator and the denominator, differences across disciplines, the insufficient citation window, and the skewness of the underlying citation distributions.

The inflation of the JIF and the weakening predictive power is discussed, as well as the adverse effects on the behaviors of individual actors and the research enterprise. Alternative journal-based indicators are described and the chapter concludes with a call for responsible application and a commentary on future developments in journal indicators


Authorial and institutional stratification in open access publishing: the case of global health research

Authors : Kyle Siler, Stefanie Haustein, Elise Smith, Vincent Larivière, Juan Pablo Alperin

Using a database of recent articles published in the field of Global Health research, we examine institutional sources of stratification in publishing access outcomes. Traditionally, the focus on inequality in scientific publishing has focused on prestige hierarchies in established print journals.

This project examines stratification in contemporary publishing with a particular focus on subscription vs. various Open Access (OA) publishing options.

Findings show that authors working at lower-ranked universities are more likely to publish in closed/paywalled outlets, and less likely to choose outlets that involve some sort of Article Processing Charge (APCs; gold or hybrid OA).

We also analyze institutional differences and stratification in the APC costs paid in various journals. Authors affiliated with higher-ranked institutions, as well as hospitals and non-profit organizations pay relatively higher APCs for gold and hybrid OA publications.

Results suggest that authors affiliated with high-ranked universities and well-funded institutions tend to have more resources to choose pay options with publishing. Our research suggests new professional hierarchies developing in contemporary publishing, where various OA publishing options are becoming increasingly prominent.

Just as there is stratification in institutional representation between different types of publishing access, there is also inequality within access types.

URL : Authorial and institutional stratification in open access publishing: the case of global health research


The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship

Authors : Philippe Mongeon, Elise Smith, Bruno Joyal, Vincent Larivière

Contemporary biomedical research is performed by increasingly large teams. Consequently, an increasingly large number of individuals are being listed as authors in the bylines, which complicates the proper attribution of credit and responsibility to individual authors.

Typically, more importance is given to the first and last authors, while it is assumed that the others (the middle authors) have made smaller contributions. However, this may not properly reflect the actual division of labor because some authors other than the first and last may have made major contributions.

In practice, research teams may differentiate the main contributors from the rest by using partial alphabetical authorship (i.e., by listing middle authors alphabetically, while maintaining a contribution-based order for more substantial contributions). In this paper, we use partial alphabetical authorship to divide the authors of all biomedical articles in the Web of Science published over the 1980–2015 period in three groups: primary authors, middle authors, and supervisory authors.

We operationalize the concept of middle author as those who are listed in alphabetical order in the middle of an authors’ list. Primary and supervisory authors are those listed before and after the alphabetical sequence, respectively.

We show that alphabetical ordering of middle authors is frequent in biomedical research, and that the prevalence of this practice is positively correlated with the number of authors in the bylines. We also find that, for articles with 7 or more authors, the average proportion of primary, middle and supervisory authors is independent of the team size, more than half of the authors being middle authors.

This suggests that growth in authors lists are not due to an increase in secondary contributions (or middle authors) but, rather, in equivalent increases of all types of roles and contributions (including many primary authors and many supervisory authors).

Nevertheless, we show that the relative contribution of alphabetically ordered middle authors to the overall production of knowledge in the biomedical field has greatly increased over the last 35 years.

URL : The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship