Open Access: Polymers

Open access is a funny thing. To me it seems silly that we want to research things for the greater good of society and industry, yet for anyone to read our stuff they need to pay gobs of money. Paywalls can make our research practically unheard of and therefore useless. Sure, some newspapers and the like may pay for access, then “translate” our jargon into words that are more palatable for the average consumer. But often things get lost in translation. For this reason, it is critical that average people have access to the research that their taxes pay for. It gives them a chance to read directly from the source with minimal chance of misinformation or “dumbing-down”. The problem is that most people know of Nature or Science, but free and open access journals are largely unknown. This is probably a result of open access being relatively new, but it makes it difficult for people to know where to look if they want certain information. Google helps, but I don’t believe there’s an open-access only option to remove the frustration of consistently ramming into paywalls. Anyway…let’s go find an open access journal…

“Polymers (ISSN 2073-4360) is an international open access
journal of polymer science. It publishes research papers,
communications and review articles. Polymers provides
an interdisciplinary forum for publishing papers which
advance the fields of (i) polymerization methods, (ii) theory,
simulation, and modeling, (iii) understanding of new
physical phenomena, (iv) advances in characterization
techniques, and (v) harnessing of self-assembly and
biological strategies for producing complex multifunctional

When looking for an open access journal, I realized that all of the journals that come to mind for my field are not open-access. I could think of PLOS one and some others that were more relevant to my bioengineering days, but not much for polymers/macromolecules/plastics. But alas, a touch of google and here we are, Polymers. This is a relatively new journal, started in 2009, and headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. The Belgium Polymer Group is a publication partner and is composed of various industries and universities in the area surrounding Basel.

Polymers has an impact factor of 2.935, which trails well behind the 40.137 of Nature, but it beats PLOS One’s  2.766. Many would argue that the impact factor is roughly meaningless and implies more about the breadth of readership and less about the quality of the publication, but this is still something to compare with. This brings about the first thoughts on open access journals: they’re newer and generally less established. This doesn’t mean they are bad, but means during this growth stage, they may not be the best option for new researchers trying to get noticed.

Polymers promises “unlimited and free access for readers” as well as “reliable service” and a 37-day turn around time for publications. Not bad. Costs are flexible, depending on what authors can pay, so long as the quality of the publication is decent. As an added bonus, the articles appear to be exclusively online, so there is no added cost for color figures. Submission is free, so you don’t waste any money just to get rejected. I’d say this pricing structure exemplifies the open access idea because it is both accessible to readers that may not have subscriptions and also reasonable for authors to submit their work. This is truly what is needed for knowledge to be spread and disseminated.


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