Peter Suber has posted an item (Open Access News, August 18, 2008) about Oncology Journals: Open-Access Publications, from Oncology Watch. It’s a list of oncology journals that provide free access to full-text articles. Of the 21 journals on the list, I could identify only 7 for which an Impact Factor (IF) was available via the 2007 JCR Science Edition of Journal Citation Reports, from the ISI Web of Knowledge. (I have access via the University of Toronto Libraries).
Of these seven Gold OA journals (in which all research articles are OA), I could identify only 3 that had 2007 IFs larger than 4. These were: Neuro-Oncology (5.80), Neoplasia (5.67) and Breast Cancer Research (4.37).
For comparison, examples of well-known cancer-oriented journals are (2007 IF in brackets): Cancer Cell (23.86), Journal of the National Cancer Institute (15.68), Journal of Clinical Oncology (15.48) and Cancer Research (7.67).
The good news, from the perspective of an OA advocate, is that the three Gold OA journals (all of which have issues beginning in 1999) have IFs that are approaching that of Cancer Research. The bad news is that their IFs are still well below those of Cancer Cell, JNCI and JCO.
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists 38 journals belonging to subject: Oncology. Of these, I counted 23 that currently are not listed by Oncology Watch. For only one of these 23 was an IF available. It was CA : A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, which has a very high 2007 IF (69.03). However, most of the articles in CA are solicited reviews, like the reviews in Nature Reviews Cancer (2007 IF: 29.19).
Of course, an alternative to Gold OA journals is Green OA (via OA archiving in a suitable repository). Some good news, according to information available via the SHERPA/RoMEO site: the Green OA policy for Cancer Cell permits postprints to be posted on the personal or institutional website or server of authors. (See also Copyright information for Cancer Cell).
The Green OA policy for JCO is unclear. Cancer Research has a 12-month embargo on Green OA. JNCI also has a 12-month embargo on Green OA, but provides a hybrid paid OA option via Oxford Open. It would be of interest to find out whether or not JCO would accept an appropriate Author Addendum to the journal’s usual publication agreement.
Another alternative is to publish cancer-related articles in Gold OA journals that specialize in health-related topics that include cancer/oncology, and already have high IFs. Two examples are the Public Library of Science journals PLoS Biology (2007 IF: 13.50) and PLoS Medicine (12.60).
The Journal of Clinical Investigation (2007 IF: 16.915) provides immediate access to some articles. An recent example is an article on overcoming cancer cell drug resistance, J Clin Invest 2008(Sep 2); 118(9): 3109-3122 [PubMed Abstract]. There are also several journals with high IFs that provide free access to articles one to six months after publication. See, for example, the Free Medical Journals site (but, it should be noted that the IFs currently shown may not be the most recent ones).
One may ask: why so much emphasis on IFs? For a recent essay that grapples with this and related issues, see: Thinking about prestige, quality, and open access (Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #125, September 2, 2008). A brief excerpt:
Impact factors (IFs) rose to prominence in part because they fulfilled the need for easy quantitative judgments and allowed non-experts to evaluate experts. As they rose to prominence, IFs became more tightly associated with journal prestige than journal quality, in part because their rise itself helped to define journal prestige.
A recommendation: read the entire essay.