Your guide to Open Access publishing and Open Science

How scientists choose a journal to submit their work to?

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Let me be honest. Although a lot of scientists are great people – who are kind to others and who really believe in big ideas and follow them in their everyday work – they also have to think about themselves, and primarily they have to take care of their careers. Otherwise, they would not be able to continue their work, which is the most valuable thing they can do (with the exception of maybe pet adoption). That is why we should not be surprised by the fact that scientists support their career opportunities and why they are above all interested in fulfilling the norms of their community when valuable science is published.

When discussing decision factors for choosing a journal to submit a scientific paper to, it is hard to be very original. All surveys, blog entries and informal talks support one hypothesis: journal reputation is the most important criterion for authors. The most recent survey of this kind was quoted by Phil Davies, who claimed that scientists therefore do not need Open Access, and in fact Open Access is just an expensive marketing gadget.

Yes, this is true, for the majority of scientists the most important thing is to publish in The Most Famous Journal in The World, which Even the Unprofessionals Admire (MFJWEUA). Being published by MFJWEUA gives them a lot of points, that may lead to a tenured position or the next grant opportunity, which also means the possibility of further work. MFJWEUA is so famous that it does not have to be Open Access, although scientists like openness because they need access to the work of others, which is not always granted by their institutions (because journal subscriptions are very, very expensive). There are probably more people in the world that would like to publish in MFJWEUA than people who actually read it.

Why switch your journal to Open Access?

In short, scientists need openness when they are looking for literature. When they are about to publish their own work they mostly require prestige. In fact, this is bad news for the majority of players on the publishing market, since reputation is something that can only be built over a long period of time. Established journals have a great advantage over newcomers in the field.

For scientific journals the inflow of submissions is a meter of existence. Every journal needs authors at least as much as readers. Moreover, competition among journals is hard and authors have a large choice. On the other hand, the advantage of this situation is that the ways of achieving a good reputation are quite well known, and the competition is fair – although still much harder for newcomers.

To get a sufficient number of submissions the most important thing is to publish innovatory, high-quality articles and avert all bogus science. The inescapable thing required to achieve this goal are specialists, hired as editors and cooperating as reviewers.

To survive on the market, journals need to work both on overall reputation and, as far as possible, on Impact Factor. This should not be a problem. To approach both of these goals, content quality is the key (for more tips on how to get Impact Factor look here, for discussion of IF importance here).

If your journal publishes high quality content switching to Open Access will help it. Why? Because your journal will be read and therefore cited by more people. Gaining Impact Factor and reputation will be easier, so it will also be easier to increase the submission inflow. Let me cite Peter Suber:

Even the wealthiest academic libraries in the world suffer serious access gaps. When the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted unanimously for a strong OA policy in February 2008, Professor Stuart Shieber explained that cumulative price increases had forced the Harvard library to undertake “serious cancellation efforts” for budgetary reasons. Access gaps are worse at other affluent institutions, and worse still in the developing world. In 2008, Harvard subscribed to 98,900 serials and Yale to 73,900. The best-funded research library in India, at the Indian Institute of Science, subscribed to 10,600. Several sub-Saharan African university libraries subscribed to zero, offering their patrons access to no conventional journals except those donated by publishers.

A big number of scholars are affected by access gaps, together with a growing number of non-academic researchers, would like to publish their work in MFJWEUA, but are not able to read it, so they read and cite Open Access journals in their works. I believe that thanks to their efforts, one day some Open Access journal will replace MFJWEUA, and then everyone will not only be able to admire it, but will also be able to read it.

Recent surveys conducted by Taylor & Francis show that almost half of T & F authors plan to choose green Open Access, and a third plan to choose gold, for future publications. Researchers are foreseeing enough to spot advantages of Open Access and, in my opinion, when more prestigious Open Access journals will emerge, we will forget about MFJWEUA.

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