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Concept: Open access


Many studies show that open access (OA) articles-articles from scholarly journals made freely available to readers without requiring subscription fees-are downloaded, and presumably read, more often than closed access/subscription-only articles. Assertions that OA articles are also cited more often generate more controversy. Confounding factors (authors may self-select only the best articles to make OA; absence of an appropriate control group of non-OA articles with which to compare citation figures; conflation of pre-publication vs. published/publisher versions of articles, etc.) make demonstrating a real citation difference difficult. This study addresses those factors and shows that an open access citation advantage as high as 19% exists, even when articles are embargoed during some or all of their prime citation years. Not surprisingly, better (defined as above median) articles gain more when made OA.

Concepts: Mathematics, Topology, Peer review, Metric space, Open set, Open access, Wealth condensation, The rich get richer and the poor get poorer


Recent controversies highlighting substandard peer review in Open Access (OA) and traditional (subscription) journals have increased the need for authors, funders, publishers, and institutions to assure quality of peer-review in academic journals. I propose that transparency of the peer-review process may be seen as an indicator of the quality of peer-review, and develop and validate a tool enabling different stakeholders to assess transparency of the peer-review process.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Academia, Peer review, Review, Scientific journal, Open access, Academic journal, Preprint


Copyright and licensing of scientific data, internationally, are complex and present legal barriers to data sharing, integration and reuse, and therefore restrict the most efficient transfer and discovery of scientific knowledge. Much data are included within scientific journal articles, their published tables, additional files (supplementary material) and reference lists. However, these data are usually published under licenses which are not appropriate for data. Creative Commons CC0 is an appropriate and increasingly accepted method for dedicating data to the public domain, to enable data reuse with the minimum of restrictions. BioMed Central is committed to working towards implementation of open data-compliant licensing in its publications. Here we detail a protocol for implementing a combined Creative Commons Attribution license (for copyrightable material) and Creative Commons CC0 waiver (for data) agreement for content published in peer-reviewed open access journals. We explain the differences between legal requirements for attribution in copyright, and cultural requirements in scholarship for giving individuals credit for their work through citation. We argue that publishing data in scientific journals under CC0 will have numerous benefits for individuals and society, and yet will have minimal implications for authors and minimal impact on current publishing and research workflows. We provide practical examples and definitions of data types, such as XML and tabular data, and specific secondary use cases for published data, including text mining, reproducible research, and open bibliography. We believe this proposed change to the current copyright and licensing structure in science publishing will help clarify what users - people and machines - of the published literature can do, legally, with journal articles and make research using the published literature more efficient. We further believe this model could be adopted across multiple publishers, and invite comment on this article from all stakeholders in scientific research.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science, Peer review, Scientific journal, Open access, Creative Commons, Copyleft


Journal clubs are important mechanisms for teaching how to approach the scientific literature critically and for disseminating findings. Papers from high-impact journals often dominate journal club selections, a practice that reinforces the unscientific emphasis of placing high value on publishing venue rather than scientific content and critical analysis of the publications. We suggest improving journal clubs by including preprints rather than focusing completely on published papers. This change in practice might benefit the scientific enterprise in numerous ways, including by providing direct criticisms to preprint authors before publication, deemphasizing publishing venue, teaching students the art of reviewing papers, and making journal clubs more current by discussing unpublished data.

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


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 representationbetweendifferent types of publishing access, there is also inequalitywithinaccess types.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Publishing, Society, Open source, Open access, Scientific literature, Publication, PubMed Central


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


Supplementary material is a ubiquitous feature of scientific articles, particularly in journals that limit the length of the articles. While the judicious use of supplementary material can improve the readability of scientific articles, its excessive use threatens the scientific review process and by extension the integrity of the scientific literature. In many cases supplementary material today is so extensive that it is reviewed superficially or not at all. Furthermore, citations buried within supplementary files rob other scientists of recognition of their contribution to the scientific record. These issues are exacerbated by the lack of guidance on the use of supplementary information from the journals to authors and reviewers. We propose that the removal of artificial length restrictions plus the use of interactive features made possible by modern electronic media can help to alleviate these problems. Many journals, in fact, have already removed article length limitations (as is the case for BMC Bioinformatics and other BioMed Central journals). We hope that the issues raised in our article will encourage publishers and scientists to work together towards a better use of supplementary information in scientific publishing.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Science, Publishing, Open access, Scientific literature, BioMed Central journals


CONTEXT: Sedation at the end of life, regardless of the nomenclature, is an increasingly debated practice at both clinical and bioethical levels. However, little is known about the characteristics and trends in scientific publications in this field of study. OBJECTIVES: This article presents a bibliometric analysis of the scientific publications on continuous sedation until death. METHODS: Four electronic databases (MEDLINE, PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO(®)) were searched for the indexed material published between 1945 and 2011. This search resulted in bibliographic data of 273 published outputs that were analyzed using bibliometric techniques. RESULTS: Data revealed a trend of increased scientific publication from the early 1990s. Published outputs, diverse in type (comments/letters, articles, reviews, case reports, editorials), were widely distributed across 94 journals of varying scientific disciplines (medicine, nursing, palliative care, law, ethics). Most journals (72.3%) were classified under Medical and Health Sciences, with the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management identified as the major journal in the field covering 12.1% of the total publications. Empirical research articles, mostly of a quantitative design, originated from 17 countries. Although Japan and The Netherlands were found to be the leaders in research article productivity, it was the U.K. and the U.S. that ranked top in terms of the quantity of published outputs. CONCLUSION: This is the first bibliometric analysis on continuous sedation until death that can be used to inform future studies. Further research is needed to refine controversies on terminology and ethical acceptability of the practice, as well as conditions and modalities of its use.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science, Research, Empirical, Publishing, Open access, Scientific literature


The academic community is under great pressure to publish. This pressure is compounded by high rejection rates at many journals. A more recent trend is for some journals to send invitations directly to researchers inviting them to submit a manuscript to their journals. Many researchers find these invitations annoying and unsure how best to respond to them. We collected electronic invitations to submit a manuscript to a journal between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015. We analyzed their content and cross-tabulated them against journals listed in Beall’s list of potential predatory journals. During this time period, 311 invitations were received for 204 journals, the majority of which were in Beall’s list (n = 244; 79 %). The invitations came throughout the calendar year and some journals sent up to six invitations. The majority of journals claimed to provide peer review (n = 179; 57.6 %) although no mention was made of expedited review process. Similarly, more than half of the journals claimed to be open access (n = 186; 59.8 %). The majority of invitations included an unsubscribe link (n = 187; 60.1 %). About half of the invitations came from biomedical journals (n = 179). We discuss strategies researchers and institutions can consider to reduce the number of invitations received and strategies to handle those invitations that make it to the recipients' inbox, thus helping to maintain the credibility and reputation of researchers and institutions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Academia, Peer review, Periodization, Open access


Does PubMed Central-a government-run digital archive of biomedical articles-compete with scientific society journals? A longitudinal, retrospective cohort analysis of 13,223 articles (5999 treatment, 7224 control) published in 14 society-run biomedical research journals in nutrition, experimental biology, physiology, and radiology between February 2008 and January 2011 reveals a 21.4% reduction in full-text hypertext markup language (HTML) article downloads and a 13.8% reduction in portable document format (PDF) article downloads from the journals' websites when U.S. National Institutes of Health-sponsored articles (treatment) become freely available from the PubMed Central repository. In addition, the effect of PubMed Central on reducing PDF article downloads is increasing over time, growing at a rate of 1.6% per year. There was no longitudinal effect for full-text HTML downloads. While PubMed Central may be providing complementary access to readers traditionally underserved by scientific journals, the loss of article readership from the journal website may weaken the ability of the journal to build communities of interest around research papers, impede the communication of news and events to scientific society members and journal readers, and reduce the perceived value of the journal to institutional subscribers.-Davis, P. M. Public accessibility of biomedical articles from PubMed Central reduces journal readership-retrospective cohort analysis.

Concepts: Cohort study, Open access, XML, Markup language, Wiki, HTML, XHTML, DocBook