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Concept: Open access journal


Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC, contributes to our Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection by discussing how the Open Access movement has grown up.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Board of directors, Open source, Open access, Executive director, Open access journal, Public Library of Science, PLoS Biology


The website Sci-Hub enables users to download PDF versions of scholarly articles, including many articles that are paywalled at their journal’s site. Sci-Hub has grown rapidly since its creation in 2011, but the extent of its coverage was unclear. Here we report that, as of March 2017, Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of the 81.6 million scholarly articles registered with Crossref and 85.1% of articles published in toll access journals. We find that coverage varies by discipline and publisher, and that Sci-Hub preferentially covers popular, paywalled content. For toll access articles, we find that Sci-Hub provides greater coverage than the University of Pennsylvania, a major research university in the United States. Green open access to toll access articles via licit services, on the other hand, remains quite limited. Our interactive browser at allows users to explore these findings in more detail. For the first time, nearly all scholarly literature is available gratis to anyone with an Internet connection, suggesting the toll access business model may become unsustainable.

Concepts: United States, Academic publishing, Peer review, Literature, Publishing, Portable Document Format, Philadelphia, Open access journal


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.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Review, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open access, Publication, Open access journal


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF) was interested in understanding the potential effects of requiring that grantees publish their peer-reviewed research in open access journals.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Scientific journal, Open access, Open access journal, Hybrid open access journal, Academic journals


Open-access journals, in which the authors pay a publication fee, have an incentive to publish a high volume of articles. This letter explores the matter of conflict of interest in the growing number of these journals.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Publishing, Open access, Publication, Open access journal


Mega-journals are a new kind of scholarly journal made possible by electronic publishing. They are open access (OA) and funded by charges, which authors pay for the publishing services. What distinguishes mega-journals from other OA journals is, in particular, a peer review focusing only on scientific trustworthiness. The journals can easily publish thousands of articles per year and there is no need to filter articles due to restricted slots in the publishing schedule. This study updates some earlier longitudinal studies of the evolution of mega-journals and their publication volumes. After very rapid growth in 2010-2013, the increase in overall article volumes has slowed down. Mega-journals are also increasingly dependent for sustained growth on Chinese authors, who now contribute 25% of all articles in such journals. There has also been an internal shift in market shares. PLOS ONE, which totally dominated mega-journal publishing in the early years, currently publishes around one-third of all articles. Scientific Reports has grown rapidly since 2014 and is now the biggest journal.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open access, Publication, Open access journal, Public Library of Science


On 5th December 2012, a scientific article reviewing a change in the feeding behaviour of the European catfish, one of the largest freshwater fish, was published in the American scientific journal, PLOS ONE, an open access journal, which also allows the mass publication of pictures and videos. Within a few days following the publication of this article, it was relayed by numerous web sites and generated a media craze. In this paper, we analyse the circulation of this scientific information in the sphere of Web-based media during the two months following its publication, by revealing the citation mechanisms of the original article and the logic of the Internet users participating in its diffusion. In addition, since the circulation of its informational content travelled beyond linguistic and geographical boundaries, we chose to compare the citation modalities and intertextual relationships of documents in the three countries where the article spread the most widely, namely: France, the United States and Great Britain. Even though our study shows that the media circulation of scientific papers operates in a traditional way, the intertextual analysis underlines the grand variety of participants (such as journalists, non-scientists, fishermen, technology enthusiasts and Internet users) involved in the diffusion of this information, each of them mobilizing different intertextual strategies, according to their various targets. They all transformed, reformulated and appropriated the scientific information according to their own, unique interests. This study also emphasizes the importance of journalistic websites as opinion relays. They were the first diffusers involved in spreading the information but this role was rarely acknowledged by the Internet users - through citations, for example. In contrast, we observed that amateurs' communities (communities of practices and communities of interest of fishermen or of buzz fans), which only became involved in a second temporal phase of the spreading, preferred to build up their credibility through citations of the original article. Finally, this research helps to rethink the mechanisms of the circulation of scientific information in the Web-based media, highlighting both the variety and the inventiveness of the interactions between the academic and public spheres.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Science, Scientific journal, Open access, Scientific literature, Citation index, Open access journal, Public Library of Science


Predatory open access is a controversial publishing business model that exploits the open-access system by charging publication fees in the absence of transparent editorial services. The credibility of academic publishing is now seriously threatened by predatory journals, whose articles are accorded real citations and thus contaminate the genuine scientific records of legitimate journals. This is of particular concern for public health since clinical practice relies on the findings generated by scholarly articles. Aim of this study was to compile a list of predatory journals targeting the neurosciences and neurology disciplines and to analyze the magnitude and geographical distribution of the phenomenon in these fields. Eighty-eight predatory journals operate in neurosciences and 104 in neurology, for a total of 2,404 and 3,134 articles issued, respectively. Publication fees range 521-637 USD, much less than those charged by genuine open-access journals. The country of origin of 26.0-37.0% of the publishers was impossible to determine due to poor websites or provision of vague or non-credible locations. Of the rest 35.3%-42.0% reported their headquarters in the USA, 19.0-39.2% in India, 3.0-9.8% in other countries. Although calling themselves “open-access”, none of the journals retrieved was listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. However, 11.4-20.2% of them were found to be indexed in PubMed and PubMed Central, which raises concerns on the criteria for inclusion of journals and publishers imposed by these popular databases. Scholars in the neurosciences are advised to use all the available tools to recognize predatory practices and avoid the downsides of predatory journals.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Publishing, Open access, Publication, PubMed Central, Open access journal, Directory of Open Access Journals


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.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Publishing, Publication, Open access journal, Public Library of Science, Open access journals, PLoS ONE


Since the establishment of the Journal of Medical Case Reports in 2006, the number of journals that publish case reports has increased rapidly, and most of these journals are open access. Open access publishing usually requires authors to pay publication fees while offering the articles online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. The movement for open access has gained support in the research community, with the publishers BioMed Central and PLOS ONE becoming leaders in scientific publishing in their number of articles and citations. As the number of open access publishers has exploded, so too has the number of publishers that act in bad faith to profit from the open access model. Simple guidelines have been developed and resources are available to help authors choose a suitable journal for publication of their case reports.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Publishing, Open source, Open access, Publication, Open access journal, Royalties, Public Library of Science