ATG Article of the Week: Open-access megajournals lose momentum as the publishing model matures

by | Sep 14, 2019 | 0 comments

Open-access megajournals lose momentum as the publishing model matures appears in Science and is reported by associate news editor Jeffrey Brainard.


“When PLOS ONE debuted in 2006, its founders declared it would transform scientific publishing. It was the first multidisciplinary, large-volume, open-access journal that published technically sound science without consideration of novelty. Five years later, Peter Binfield, then its publisher, forecast that by 2016, 50% of all scientific papers would appear in 100 such “megajournals.”

Based in San Francisco, CaliforniaPLOS ONE grew to become the world’s largest journal, publishing more than 30,000 papers at its height in 2013 and spawning more than a dozen imitators—but megajournals have fallen far short of Binfield’s aims. From 2013 to 2018, PLOS ONE’s output fell by 44%. Another megajournal, Scientific Reports, surpassed PLOS ONE in size in 2017 but saw its article count drop by 30% the next year, according to data in publisher Elsevier’s Scopus database. Growth in new megajournals has not offset the declines. In 2018, PLOS ONEScientific Reports, and 11 smaller megajournals collectively published about 3% of the global papers total.

PLOS ONE and Scientific Reports have also slipped on other measures of performance. Publication speeds, a key early selling point, have fallen. And a study published in August showed that by certain citation-based measures, the journals’ connection to science’s cutting edge has frayed.

“Megajournal publishers clearly have yet to persuade many researchers that their approach adds significant value to the scholarly communications ecosystem,” information scientist Stephen Pinfield of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and colleagues wrote in a July study in the Journal of Documentation…”


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