How to select an Open Access journal?

Introduction

I was recently asked by a colleague about Open Access (OA) journals. Her interests are in the areas of cancer and medical genetics. She’d had unfortunate recent experiences with anonymous peer review, and wished to find a suitable OA journal that uses open peer review – with: a)  identification of the reviewers, and b) publication of their reviews.

After responding with a few suggestions, I subsequently thought that a somewhat more extensive exploration of selected relevant  journals might be of wider interest.

If one isn’t very familiar with OA journals, then one needs to be cautious about selecting one. For authors in the biomedical area, it’s preferable that the journal be indexed in PubMed, the widely-used bibliographic database. A convenient way to check this is to enter the full name of the journal into the PubMed Single Citation Matcher.

Another valuable source of information is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which “aims to be comprehensive and cover all open access scientific and scholarly journals that use a quality control system to guarantee the content“. Although the DOAJ includes information about over 9,000 OA journals, it’s able to provide only a very limited amount of information about each one.

A useful listing of cancer-related journals is the Oncology, cancer research section of the Free medical journals site. While many of these journals permit immediate free access, some only permit embargoed access.

I’ve put together some information about a selected set of 15 OA journals. The focus is mainly, but not entirely, on ones that will consider articles about medical genetics and/or cancer. A few provide open peer review. Of these, two that I suggested to my colleague were #1 (BMC Medicine) and #3 (BMJ Open).

Journal Characteristics

The 15 journals are not listed in any rank order. Individual authors will give different weights to the particular characteristics of each journal. The primary aim of this post is to highlight some of these characteristics.

For example, if the cost of the Article Processing Fee (APF) is a major consideration, then the new journals #4 (eLife, no APF at present) and #5 (PeerJ, no APF; memberships instead) merit attention. If, on the other hand, the journal’s Impact Factor (JIF) is a major consideration, then longer-established journals such as #10 (PLOS Medicine, JIF=16.27), #8 (PLOS Biology, JIF=11.45) or #7 (The EMBO Journal, JIF=9.205) are possibilities.

Another consideration is Article-Level Metrics (ALMs). ALMs are an attempt to measure impact at the article level using traditional and emerging data sources. These emerging data sources are often called altmetrics. There are well-known concerns about the various uses of the Impact Factor of a journal, especially when it’s used as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual articles in a journal (see also: Journal impact factor: a brief review). ALMs are intended to provide more meaningful measures of the impact of individual articles. At present, there are a variety of approaches designed to provide ALMs. None of them has, as yet, achieved market dominance.

Finally, there’s the issue of the licence used to specify usage rights. All of the 15 journals listed below use Creative Commons licences. Most use the Attribution (CC-BY) licence. The EMBO Journal (#7) permits authors to choose one of three Creative Commons licences, including CC-BY. The CC-BY licence is the most permissive one. See: Author licence agreement.

Publishers

Some of the major publishers are represented in the list of 15 journals. They include BioMed Central, BMJ Group, Nature Publishing Group, Public Library of Science (PLOS), Frontiers and Hindawi Publishing Corp. For a much longer list of publishers, see the Members of the Open Access Scholarly  Publishers Association (OASPA). One of the roles of OASPA is to promote “Gold” OA journals of the kind considered in this post. As noted in a footnote on the Mission and Purpose section of the OASPA website, “Gold OA refers to implementing the free and open dissemination of original scholarship by publishers, as opposed to Green OA, in which free and open dissemination is achieved by archiving and making freely available copies of scholarly publications that may or may not have been previously published“.

For information about the restrictions that various publishers place on Green OA, visit the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ policies on copyright and self-archiving.

Comment

The 15 OA journals considered here are listed below. Which one would I choose for an article of my own? If there were co-authors, I’d need to take their preferences into account. If not, and the article was in the cancer and/or genetics area, I’d probably try #5 (PeerJ), mainly because it has innovative membership plans, provides ALMs, and publishes (anonymous) reviewers’ comments.

The Selected Journals

#1) BMC Medicine: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmed
Scope: Original research, commentaries and reviews that are either of significant interest to all areas of medicine and clinical practice, or provide key translational or clinical advances in a specific field.
Journal Impact Factor (JIF): 6.035
Article Processing Fee (APF): £1515/€1785/US$2325. See:  http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmed/about/apcfaq/howmuch
Licence: Creative Commons CC-BY (must attribute the work).
Article-Level Metrics: Via Altmetric.com (see: “About this article” under the “Associated Material” in the right-hand column that’s shown for each published article). An example: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/124/about
Peer Review: Reviewers are named and reviewers’ reports are published. An example: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/3/prepub

#2) BMC Medical Genetics: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmedgenet
Scope: Considers articles on the effects of genetic variation in individuals, families and among populations in relation to human health and disease.
JIF: 2.33
APF: £1290/€1520/US$1980. See: Article Processing Charge FAQ #3.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Via Altmetric.com (see “About this article”, as described above for BMC Medicine).
Peer Review: Reviewers are named and reviewers’ reports are published. An example: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/106/prepub

#3) BMJ Open: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/
Scope: Publishes medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas.
JIF: Currently being tracked for its first JIF. [Announced June 20, 2013: First JIF is 1.58].
APF: £1350. See: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/site/about/faqs.xhtml#11
Licence: The default licence is CC-BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial), but where the funder requires it the author can select CC-BY. See: Compliance with Funders Open Access policies.
Article-level metrics: Article Usage Statistics are provided. An example: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/articleusage?rid=3/3/e002114
Peer Review: Reviewers are named and reviewers’ comments are published. An example is available [PDF].

#4) eLife: http://elife.elifesciences.org/
Scope: From basic biological research through to applied, translational and clinical studies.
JIF: No JIF yet. New journal, launched in 2012.
APF: Free of charge, at least for an initial period. Supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Number of views, PDF downloads and XML downloads are provided for each article.
Peer Review: The decision letter from the editor and the author response are published, if author agrees. An example: http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/2/e00499 (look under “Jump to” in the right-hand column).

#5) PeerJ: https://peerj.com/
Scope: Research Articles in the biological and medical sciences.
JIF: No JIF yet. New journal, launched in 2013.
APF: No APF. Uses membership plans instead.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Via ImpactStory.
Peer Review: Reviewers may be anonymous but reviewers’ comments are published, if author agrees. An example: https://peerj.com/reviews/68/

#6) Biology Direct: http://www.biology-direct.com/
Scope: Genomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology; Immunology; Mathematical Biology.
JIF: 4.02
APF: £1290/ €1520/US$1980. See: Article-processing charges FAQ #3.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Via Altmetric.com.
Peer Review: Reviewers are named and reviewers’ reports are published. A commentary about open review in Biology Direct is available here. An example: http://www.biology-direct.com/content/8/1/3#sec5

#7) The EMBO Journal: http://www.nature.com/emboj/index.html
Scope: Original research of general rather than specialist interest in molecular biology and related areas.
JIF: 9.205
APF: $3,900 (for Hybrid Open Access, via EMBO Open). Total charges include page charges, in addition to the APF.
Licence: Open articles are published under one of three Creative Commons licences at the free choice of the authors. See: Who retains copyright of EMBO Open articles?
Article-level metrics: Citation data from Scopus are provided for articles that have been cited at least once.
Peer Review: Reviewers are anonymous, but reviewer’s reports are published. An example is available [PDF].

#8) PLOS Biology: http://www.plosbiology.org/
Scope: Claims to feature works of exceptional significance, originality, and relevance in all areas of biological science.
JIF: 11.45
APF: US$2900. See: Publication Fees.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: An Article-Level Metrics Suite is provided.
Peer Review: Reviewers can choose to be anonymous. No reviewer reports are published.

#9) PLOS Genetics: http://www.plosgenetics.org/
Scope: A forum for the publication of articles of broad interest to the genetics and genomics community.
JIF: 8.69
APF: US$2250. See: Publication Fees.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: An Article-Level Metrics Suite is provided.
Peer Review: Reviewers can choose to be anonymous. No reviewer reports are published.

#10) PLOS Medicine: http://www.plosmedicine.org/
Scope: Outstanding research and commentary on the major challenges to human health worldwide.
JIF: 16.27
APF: US$2900. See: Publication Fees.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: An Article-Level Metrics Suite is provided.
Peer Review: Reviewers can choose to be anonymous. No reviewer reports are published.

#11) PLOS ONE: http://www.plosone.org/
Scope: Designed to communicate primary scientific research, in any discipline that will contribute to the base of scientific knowledge.
JIF: 4.09
APF: US$1350. See: Publication Fees.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: An Article-Level Metrics Suite is provided.
Peer Review: Reviewers can choose to be anonymous. No reviewer reports are published.

#12) Frontiers in Cancer Genetics: http://www.frontiersin.org/Cancer_Genetics
Scope: Ranges from whole genome to focused studies of individual genes and molecular pathways.
JIF: No JIF yet.
APF: €1,600 for regular submission of original research articles. See: Fees.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Via Altmetric.com.
Peer Review: Review editors and reviewers are identified on accepted articles. No reviewer reports are published.

#13) F1000Research: http://f1000research.com/
Scope: All articles, including research findings, analyses of scientific developments, opinions, and comments are published immediately, following a quick internal check for obvious inappropriateness.
JIF: No JIF yet. New journal, launched in 2012.
APF: US$1000 for research articles. See: Article Processing Charges.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Number of views, PDF downloads and XML downloads are provided for each article.
Peer Review is post-publication. Reviewers are named and short reviewer reports are published. Articles that pass post-publication peer review will be indexed by PubMed. At present, this indexing hasn’t begun yet. See some critical comments here.

#14) Genetics Research International: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/gri/
Scope: Publishes original research articles, review articles, and clinical studies in all areas of genetics.
JIF: No JIF yet. Began publishing in 2011.
APF: Free during May 2013. See: Article Processing Charges.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Not yet available.
Peer Review: Anonymous peer review.

#15) Journal of Cancer Research: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jcr/
Scope: Publishes original research articles, review articles, and clinical studies in all areas of cancer research.
JIF: No JIF yet. New journal, very recently launched.
APF: US$600. See: Article Processing Charges.
Licence: CC-BY
Article-level metrics: Not yet available.
Peer Review: Anonymous peer review.

5 Comments »

  1. […] Introduction I was recently asked by a colleague about Open Access (OA) journals. Her interests are in the areas of cancer and medical genetics. She'd had unfortunate recent experiences with anonym…  […]

  2. […] Introduction I was recently asked by a colleague about Open Access (OA) journals. Her interests are in the areas of cancer and medical genetics. She'd had unfortunate recent experiences with anonym…  […]

  3. […] wine on memory, an interesting interview with Lee Hood on Systems Biology and P4 medicine (pdf), an interesting blog on selecting Open Access journals, and a nicely done paper on systems vaccinology (with interactive figures allowing further data […]

  4. Jim Till said

    Via Twitter, from BMJ Open:

  5. […] “Be openly accessible or be obscure comes recommendations for how to select an open access journal. This is important, considering that there are predatory […]

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