The diverse niches of megajournals: Specialism within generalism

Authors: Kyle Siler, Vincent Larivière, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

Over the past decade, megajournals have expanded in popularity and established a legitimate niche in academic publishing. Leveraging advantages of digital publishing, megajournals are characterized by large publication volume, broad interdisciplinary scope, and peer‐review filters that select primarily for scientific soundness as opposed to novelty or originality.

These publishing innovations are complementary and competitive vis‐à‐vis traditional journals. We analyze how megajournals (PLOS One, Scientific Reports) are represented in different fields relative to prominent generalist journals (Nature, PNAS, Science) and “quasi‐megajournals” (Nature Communications, PeerJ).

Our results show that both megajournals and prominent traditional journals have distinctive niches, despite the similar interdisciplinary scopes of such journals.

These niches—defined by publishing volume and disciplinary diversity—are dynamic and varied over the relatively brief histories of the analyzed megajournals. Although the life sciences are the predominant contributor to megajournals, there is variation in the disciplinary composition of different megajournals.

The growth trajectories and disciplinary composition of generalist journals—including megajournals—reflect changing knowledge dissemination and reward structures in science.

URL : The diverse niches of megajournals: Specialism within generalism


Revisiting “the 1990s debutante”: Scholar‐led publishing and the prehistory of the open access movement

Author : Samuel A. Moore

The movement for open access publishing (OA) is often said to have its roots in the scientific disciplines, having been popularized by scientific publishers and formalized through a range of top‐down policy interventions. But there is an often‐neglected prehistory of OA that can be found in the early DIY publishers of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Managed entirely by working academics, these journals published research in the humanities and social sciences and stand out for their unique set of motivations and practices.

This article explores this separate lineage in the history of the OA movement through a critical‐theoretical analysis of the motivations and practices of the early scholar‐led publishers.

Alongside showing the involvement of the humanities and social sciences in the formation of OA, the analysis reveals the importance that these journals placed on experimental practices, critique of commercial publishing, and the desire to reach new audiences.

Understood in today’s context, this research is significant for adding complexity to the history of OA, which policymakers, advocates, and publishing scholars should keep in mind as OA goes mainstream.


The Future of OA: A large-scale analysis projecting Open Access publication and readership

Authors : Heather Piwowar, Jason Priem, Richard Orr

Understanding the growth of open access (OA) is important for deciding funder policy, subscription allocation, and infrastructure planning.

This study analyses the number of papers available as OA over time. The models includes both OA embargo data and the relative growth rates of different OA types over time, based on the OA status of 70 million journal articles published between 1950 and 2019.

The study also looks at article usage data, analyzing the proportion of views to OA articles vs views to articles which are closed access. Signal processing techniques are used to model how these viewership patterns change over time. Viewership data is based on 2.8 million uses of the Unpaywall browser extension in July 2019.

We found that Green, Gold, and Hybrid papers receive more views than their Closed or Bronze counterparts, particularly Green papers made available within a year of publication. We also found that the proportion of Green, Gold, and Hybrid articles is growing most quickly.

In 2019:

  • 31% of all journal articles are available as OA
  • 52% of article views are to OA article

Given existing trends, we estimate that by 2025:

  • 44% of all journal articles will be available as OA

  • 70% of article views will be to OA articles

The declining relevance of closed access articles is likely to change the landscape of scholarly communication in the years to come.

URL : The Future of OA: A large-scale analysis projecting Open Access publication and readership


Data papers as a new form of knowledge organization in the field of research data

Authors : Joachim Schöpfel, Dominic Farace, Hélène Prost, Antonella Zane

Data papers have been defined as scholarly journal publications whose primary purpose is to describe research data. Our survey provides more insights about the environment of data papers, i.e. disciplines, publishers and business models, and about their structure, length, formats, metadata and licensing.

Data papers are a product of the emerging ecosystem of data-driven open science. They contribute to the FAIR principles for research data management. However, the boundaries with other categories of academic publishing are partly blurred. Data papers are (can be) generated automatically and are potentially machine-readable.

Data papers are essentially information, i.e. description of data, but also partly contribute to the generation of knowledge and data on its own. Part of the new ecosystem of open and data-driven science, data papers and data journals are an interesting and relevant object for the assessment and understanding of the transition of the former system of academic publishing.


Editors’ and authors’ individual conflicts of interest disclosure and journal transparency. A cross-sectional study of high-impact medical specialty journals

Authors : Rafael Dal-Ré, Arthur L Caplan, Ana Marusic


To assess the fulfilment of authors’ and editors’ individual disclosure of potential conflicts of interest in a group of highly influential medicine journals across a variety of specialties.


Cross-sectional analysis.

Setting and participants

Top-ranked five journals as per 2017 Journal Citation Report impact factor of 26 medical, surgery and imaging specialties.


Observational analysis.

Primary and secondary outcome measures

Percentage of journals requiring disclosure of authors’ and editors’ individual potential conflicts of interest (CoI). Journals that were listed as followers of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Recommendations, members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and linked to a third party (ie, college, professional association/society, public institution).


Although 99% (129/130) of journals required author’s CoI disclosure, only 12% (16/130) reported individual editors’ potential CoIs. Forty−five per cent (58/130) of journals were followers of the ICMJE Recommendations, and 73% (95/130) were COPE members. Most (69%; 90/130) were linked to a college, professional society/association or public institution. Only one journal did not have policies on individual authors’ and editors’ CoI disclosure.


Very few high-impact medical journals disclosed their editorial teams’ individual potential CoIs—conversely, almost all required disclosure of authors’ individual CoIs. Journal followers of the ICMJE Recommendations should regularly disclose the editors’ individual CoIs, as this is the only legitimate way to ask the same transparency of authors.

URL : Editors’ and authors’ individual conflicts of interest disclosure and journal transparency. A cross-sectional study of high-impact medical specialty journals


Which Are the Tools Available for Scholars? A Review of Assisting Software for Authors during Peer Reviewing Process

Authors : J. Israel Martínez-López, Samantha Barrón-González, Alejandro Martínez López

There is a large amount of Information Technology and Communication (ITC) tools that surround scholar activity. The prominent place of the peer-review process upon publication has promoted a crowded market of technological tools in several formats.

Despite this abundance, many tools are unexploited or underused because they are not known by the academic community. In this study, we explored the availability and characteristics of the assisting tools for the peer-reviewing process.

The aim was to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the tools available at this time, and to hint at new trends for further developments. The result of an examination of literature assisted the creation of a novel taxonomy of types of software available in the market.

This new classification is divided into nine categories as follows: (I) Identification and social media, (II) Academic search engines, (III) Journal-abstract matchmakers, (IV) Collaborative text editors, (V) Data visualization and analysis tools, (VI) Reference management, (VII) Proofreading and plagiarism detection, (VIII) Data archiving, and (IX) Scientometrics and Altmetrics.

Considering these categories and their defining traits, a curated list of 220 software tools was completed using a crowdfunded database (AlternativeTo) to identify relevant programs and ongoing trends and perspectives of tools developed and used by scholars.

URL : Which Are the Tools Available for Scholars? A Review of Assisting Software for Authors during Peer Reviewing Process



Pubfair: a framework for sustainable, distributed, open science publishing services

Authors : Tony Ross-Hellauer, Benedikt Fecher, Kathleen Shearer, Eloy Rodrigues

Over the last thirty years, digitally-networked technologies have disrupted traditional media, turning business models on their head and changing the conditions for the creation, packaging and distribution of content.

Yet, scholarly communication still looks remarkably as it did in the pre-digital age. The primary unit of dissemination remains the research article (or book in some disciplines), and today’s articles still bear a remarkable resemblance to those that populated the pages of Oldenburg’s Philosophical Transactions 350 years ago.

In an age of such disruptive innovation, it is striking how little digital technologies have impacted scholarly publishing; and this is also somewhat ironic, since the Web was developed by scientists for research purposes.

Pubfair is a conceptual model for a modular open source publishing framework which builds upon a distributed network of repositories to enable the dissemination and quality-control of a range of research outputs including publications, data, and more.

Pubfair aims to introduce significant innovation into scholarly publishing. It enables different stakeholders (funders, institutions, scholarly societies, individuals scientists) to access a suite of functionalities to create their own dissemination channels, with built in open review and transparent processes.

The model minimizes publishing costs while maintaining academic standards by connecting communities with iterative publishing services linked to their preferred repository.

Such a publishing environment has the capacity to transform the scholarly communication system, making it more research-centric, dissemination-oriented and open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.