Assessing immunology journals

The new NIH policy about open access began to be implemented on April 7, 2008. The new policy can be expected to have impact on the accessibility of NIH-supported publications in all aspects of the biomedical and health sciences. This post has a focus on one of these areas: immunology.

Research in immunology has potential applications to a wide range of areas relevant to human health, including the prevention and treatment of both infectious and chronic diseases. It’s yet another area of research where improved access to research publications can be expected to increase not only the rate of generation of new knowledge, but also the translation of that new knowledge into practical applications.

The Eigenfactor.org site can be used to identify and rank immunology journals. See: Eigenfactor.org: Immunology journals.

This result was obtained via an advanced search (JCR Subject Category: Immunology; Eigenfactor Subject: No Category; Journal name and ISSN number fields left blank). The three highest-ranked journals (omitting those that emphasize reviews):

1. Nature Immunology (Nature Publishing Group).
2. Immunity (Cell Press).
3. Journal of Experimental Medicine (Rockefeller University Press).

Another ranked list of immunology journals can be obtained via the SCImago website. See: SCImago: Immunology journals (obtained via a search of SCImago Journal Indicators, Subject Area: Immunology and Microbiology; Subject Category: Immunology). The rank order of journals is based on the SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) indicator. The same three journals were ranked highest (again, journals that emphasize reviews were omitted).

The Journal-Ranking.com website also identified these same three highly-ranked journals (when a reviews-oriented journal was omitted).

The data shown below include (when available):
a) Journal name and print ISSN;
b) SJR indicator, obtained via a SCImago Journal Search;
c) Subscription prices per citation, obtained via: Journal Cost-Effectiveness 2005-6 BETA;
d) Policies about archiving in repositories (“Green OA“), obtained via the SHERPA/RoMEO database of information about publisher copyright policies & self-archiving, and from Selected Publisher Policies about the NIH Public Access Policy (posted by Charles W. Bailey, Jr., DigitalKoans, April 9th, 2008).
e) Estimates of percentages of NIH-supported publications that are freely accessible, obtained via PubMed. As described in a previous post, NIH-supported publications were identified by searching for these keywords: Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural [pt] OR Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural [pt].

Note that the criteria that can be used to limit PubMed searches include a “Search by Journal” option. This option was used (on April 8th) to search PubMed for articles with NIH support (intramural or extramural), and to estimate the percentage of these identified as freely accessible, for nine Immunology journals. They were:

#1. Nature Immunology: ISSN 1529-2908
SJR(2006)=12.484
Subscription price per citation: 0.48
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: Can archive postprint, with 6 month embargo; see also Author licence policy.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 5/162=3% FFT
    published in the last 1 year: 1/80=about 1% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 0/20=0% FFT

Comment: This very high-profile journal has a satisfactory policy about Green OA. It encourages submission of “the author’s version of the accepted paper (the unedited manuscript) to PubMedCentral or other appropriate funding body’s archive“, and to the repository of the author’s host institution, with a 6-month embargo. Access to the free full text, through PubMed Central, of articles published in this journal is currently low, but can be anticipate to rise dramatically as the new NIH policy is successfully implemented.

#2. Immunity: ISSN 1074-7613
SJR(2006)=9.337
Subscription price per citation: 0.39
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: Can archive postprint on author’s personal or author’s institution’s server.
For NIH-supported authors, the journal will send the postprint to PubMed Central, with a 12-month embargo.
Open Archive: Papers are freely available from the archives of Cell Press journals after 12 months.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: = 18/185=10% FFT
    published in the last 1 year: = 6/86=7% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 0/15=0% FFT

Comment: This high-quality journal has a good policy about the form of Green OA that involves self-archiving in institutional repositories. However, PubMed doesn’t yet provide links to such self-archived articles. Deposition in PubMed Central involves a 12-month embargo. Currently, only 10% of NIH-supported articles are freely accessible via PubMed after 2 years. This percentage should increase as the new NIH policy is successfully implemented.

#3. Journal of Experimental Medicine: ISSN 0022-1007
SJR(2006)=6.785
Subscription price per citation: 0.24
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: Can archive postprint (6 month embargo for NIH-supported articles if archived in PubMed Central).
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 251/325=77% FFT
    published in the last 1 year: 94/168=59% FFT
    published in the last 180 days: 0/74=0% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 0/35=0% FFT

Comment: This first-rate journal has an outstanding track record about making articles freely accessible via its own archive and PubMed Central. Already, almost 60% of NIH-supported articles are freely accessible within a year after publication. This percentage should increase further as the new NIH policy is successfully implemented.

Two examples of other journals that publish articles about immunology:

#4. PLoS Pathogens: ISSN 1553-7366
SJR(2006)=2.517
Subscription price per citation: zero (no subscription required).
Publication fee (2008): US$2100 (discount available for authors who are affiliated with an Institutional Member).
Published version deposited by journal in PubMed Central.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 175/175=100% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 15/15=100% FFT

Comment: A SCImago comparison of this OA journal with the three journals listed above it indicates that the SJR of PLoS Pathogens increased dramatically in 2006.

#5. Journal of Immunology: ISSN 0022-1767
SJR(2006)=2.229
Subscription price per citation: 0.08
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: NIH-supported authors can archive postprint in PubMed Central, with a 12 month embargo; see also NIH Public Access Policy: FAQ.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 929/1776=52% FFT
    published in the last 1 year: 13/860=2% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 1/105=1% FFT

Comment: This popular journal would be more attractive from an OA perspective if its embargo for postprints deposited in PubMed Central could be shortened from 12 months to 6 months.

Four examples of immunology journals that currently have lower SJRs, but satisfactory access policies, are these:

#6. Infection and Immunity: ISSN 0019-9567
SJR(2006)=0.894
Subscription price per citation: 0.26
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: Authors can archive postprint.
Journal policy: Published articles freely accessible (and available through PubMed Central) 4 months after publication.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 670/761=88% FFT
    published in the last 1 year: 256/347=74% FFT
    published in the last 180 days: 62/153=41% FFT
    published in the last 90 days: 0/67=0% FFT

#7. BMC Immunology: ISSN 1471-2172
SJR(2006)=0.701
Subscription price per citation: zero (no subscription required).
Article processing charge (2008): £950 (€1205, US$1890). Discounts offered (e.g. Supporter Member discount).
Published version included in PubMed Central.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 21/21=100% FFT

#8. Microbiology and Immunology: ISSN: 0385-5600
SJR(2006)=0.242
Subscription price per citation: zero (no subscription required).
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 4/4=100% FFT

#9. Clinical and Developmental Immunology: ISSN 1740-2522
SJR(2006)=0.219
Subscription price per citation: zero (no subscription required).
Article Processing Charge currently €600.
Access to the free full text (FFT) of NIH-supported articles:

    published in the last 2 years: 3/3=100% FFT

Comment: Of the four journals (#6 to #9), Infection and Immunity appears to be, by a wide margin, the most popular with NIH-supported authors. A SCImago comparison of the same four journals indicates that the SJRs of BMC Immunology have increased steadily since 2001, while those of Infection and Immunity have declined somewhat over the same time interval. The SJRs of Clinical and Developmental Immunology also increased after 2003.

Of course, there are other journals which do not focus on topics related to immunology, but do publish articles about immunology. One example is provided by the Immunology section of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Comment: A PubMed search indicated that, of a total 1941 articles published in the last 2 years in PLoS ONE (on any subject, not just immunology), only 55 (3%) were by NIH-supported authors. Of 58 publications indexed under the MeSH Heading “Immunity” and published in the last 2 years, only one was NIH-supported. It’ll be of interest to see whether or not these low percentages increase as the new NIH policy is successfully implemented.

The MeSH Heading “Immunity” was also used (on April 15th) to estimate the number of immunity-related and NIH-supported publications in three other journals. The percentages of such articles for which the free full text (FFT) was available via PubMed were:

PNAS: Immunity-related articles, NIH-supported, published in last 2 years: 198/244=81% FFT; published in last 1 year: 66/112=59% FFT;
Science: Immunity-related articles, NIH-supported, published in last 2 years: 38/64=59% FFT; published in last 1 year: 2/26=8% FFT;
Nature: Immunity-related articles, NIH-supported, published in last 2 years: 3/54=6% FFT; published in last 1 year: 2/31=6% FFT.

In conclusion, the results described above should be useful as baseline data for an immunology-oriented case study of the impact of the new NIH policy on access to articles published in the set of journals considered above.

Added May 15, 2008:

The MeSH Heading “Immunity” was used (on May 15th) to estimate the percentages of immunity-related and NIH-supported publications for which the free full text (FFT) was available via PubMed.

Immunity-related articles, NIH-supported:

    published in last 2 years: 3453/8943=39% FFT;
    published in last 1 year: 878/4081=22% FFT.

Total immunity-related articles:

    published in last 2 years: 10101/44181=23% FFT;
    published in last 1 year: 2616/19698=13% FFT.

These immunity-related articles were published in a variety of journals. Overall, however, access to the free full text was available for almost 40% of NIH-supported articles (related to immunity) that were published within the past 2 years.

The number of immunity-related articles for which the free full text (FFT) is available via the PubMed Central (PMC) repository can be estimated by use of the search terms (Immunity AND (free full text[sb])) in the PMC Database. One can also assess the proportion of such articles that are Open Access according to the Bethesda Definition of OA (in which specified permission barriers, as well as price barriers, are absent) by use of the “Limits” option. The results obtained (on May 15) were:

    published in last 2 years: OA/FFT=1952/7283=27%;
    published in last 1 year: OA/FFT=695/2418=29%.

My thanks to Heather Morrison and Peter Suber for their information about how to obtain these OA/FFT estimates.

Added July 2, 2008: Cite as: Till J. Assessing immunology journals. Be Openly Accessible or Be Obscure blog. Self-Archived at WebCite® 2008-Jul-2 [http://www.webcitation.org/5Z0paY8DC]

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5 Comments »

  1. tillje said

    For an approach to validation of the SCImago journal rank indicator, see: Comparison of SCImago journal rank indicator with journal impact factor, by Matthew E. Falagas and 3 co-authors, FASEB Journal, April 11, 2008.

    Found via: More on SCImago Journal Rank, an OA impact measurement, Peter Suber, Open Access News, April 17, 2008.

  2. tillje said

    Journals That Submit Articles To PubMed Central (PMC):

    This is a list of the journals that submit articles directly to PubMed Central on behalf of their authors. If you publish in one of these journals, no further action is needed to comply with the submission requirement of NIH Public Access Policy.

    Of the immunology-oriented journals assessed, the following appear on the list of journals that submit articles to PMC (list updated April 24, 2008):

    #3. Journal of Experimental Medicine;
    #4. PLoS Pathogens;
    #6. Infection and Immunity;
    #7. BMC Immunology;
    #9. Clinical and Developmental Immunology;

    and,

    PLoS ONE;
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

  3. tillje said

    A new OA journal, The Open Immunology Journal, published by Bentham Open, was added to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) on May 30, 2008.

  4. tillje said

    A ranked list of immunology journals based on SCImago data for 2007 can be compared with a ranked list based on data for 2006.

  5. […] A Twitter friend, “orgmonkey“, recently sent me a link to a post on the openness of ethics journals. Jim Till, of Be openly accessible or be obscure, examines the open access policies and the frequency of “free full text” (FFT) publication in leading bioethics journals. In “Assessing medical ethics journals”, Till uses three, free, online tools to build his lists of highly ranked ethics journals: eigenFACTOR.org, Journal-Ranking.com, and SCImago Journal & Country Rank. Thereby avoiding the standard (but not “open”) tool for this sort of research—Thomson Reuters’ Citation Indexes and Journal Citation Reports. Till’s method identified seven, top-ranked titles, publishing a total of 1,472 articles in two years, and providing FFT (as indicated by PubMed) to 181 articles. (Note, however, that 178 of these FFT articles were published in one journal, BMJ’s Journal of Medical Ethics.) Which means that Till’s “leading” bioethics journals are about 12% open (181/1472) – or, to borrow a term from the title of Till’s blog, 88% (1291/1472) “obscure”. In contrast, a similar analysis by Till of immunology journals found that the three top-ranked titles of the field were about 41% open (274/672)—see: “Assessing immunology journals”, 16 April 2008. […]

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