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The Mega-Journal Market Grows, as Traditional Journals Lose Ground and Emerging Areas Launch Open Access Titles

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Fortune Brainstorm Health 2017, May 2-3, 2017: San Diego, CA, USA, May 2, 2017 | © Courtesy of Brainstorm Health.

As University College London mulls publishing its own mega-journal, it is expected to join the bustling marketplace of Open Access journals. This can be due to the community-building effects of Open Access journals that become increasingly prized, whereas traditional journals see their hold on scholarly communities weaken. While support infrastructure in the Open Access sector continues to develop, cutting-edge research fields call to life specialized Open Access outlets.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


The Open Access market in the United Kingdom (UK) marks a milestone as august University College London (UCL), originally founded in 1826, has announced its planned launch of an Open Access mega-journal, to compete with PLOS One and Scientific Reports. This effort also seeks to emulate the success of Collabra, a mega-journal operated by the University of California Press. Rather than being scholarly periodicals narrowly conceived, mega-journals act as broad platforms for publishing scientific output. Though their peer-review practices may be questioned, Open Access journals increasingly gain a positive word of mouth in the academic community, due to their streamlined publication procedures, experimental peer review models and unrestricted accessibility.

As large foundations throw their weight behind Open Access publishing platforms, the role of mega-journals as anchors for diverse scientific communities is also increasingly recognized, especially given the frequently interdisciplinary nature of cutting-edge research. This, however, takes place on the background of the growing saturation and competition in the mega-journal market, as new market entrants drive the article output of incumbent Open Access mega-scale publication venues, such as PLOS One, downward. Nevertheless, Open Access journals in highly specialized sub-fields of research, such as npj Digital Medicine jointly launched by the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Springer Nature, continue to make their entry into the scholarly publishing market, as large publishers continue to add Open Access titles to their journal portfolios to make them stand out globally.

In other words, Open Access journals lend themselves more readily than their subscription-based counterparts to community-building functions, due to the rapid, cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas they enable, given that scientific institutions or individual scholars do not need to acquire subscription packages to access their contents. This also contributes to the democratization of science. As scientists and journals seek to gain additional audiences for scholarly research results, Open Access journals and publishing ecologies into which they are plugged, such as academic blogs, can help bridge the gap between scientific discourse and lay or non-specialist audiences.

As scientific journals become valued for their position in existing and emergent scientific communities, Open Access models can provide innovative platforms not only for scholarly publishing and institutional partnerships, but also for zero-cost post-publication services, such as open peer review, blog coverage and knowledge dissemination. Both university-based and private publishers seeking to maintain their positioning in the publishing market can, thus, be expected to take recourse to Open Access, to provide scholarly communities-derived added value.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Fortune Brainstorm Health 2017, May 2-3, 2017: San Diego, CA, USA, May 2, 2017 | © Courtesy of Brainstorm Health.

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