Open access blog post

The journal that I chose for this blog post is “Scientific Reports.” Launched in 2011 by Nature Research, Scientific Reports (SR) is an open-access megajournal that publishes original research across all areas of the natural and clinical sciences. Like other open-access journals, the researchers are required to pay a fee to publish. It offers the benefits of a typical open-access journal – reach as many people as possible. Most of the in-house editors are from the UK and Ireland, but the editorial board consists of researchers/academics worldwide.  Because this journal is by Nature Research, it also has the “brand-value,” which is attracting many researchers. I must admit that before I put in some work for this blog post, I read a few impressive articles from SR in the past and did not know that it was an open-access journal. I had the opinion that it was a decent journal. I still have the same opinion but have my reservations after coming across the following (few) interesting scope/traits/comments/reviews of SR that I found online:

  1. “To be published in Scientific Reports, a paper must be scientifically valid and technically sound in methodology and analysis. Manuscripts are not assessed based on their perceived importance, significance or impact; the research community makes such judgements after publication. We are happy to publish papers of niche scope, that lie between disciplines, report negative results, or scientifically-justified replications.” [1]
  2. Not sure if this is the case for other journals but SR offers a waiver for papers whose corresponding authors are based in the world’s lowest-income countries as defined by the World Bank. [2]
  3. “I have to say I have read high quality research published in this journal. However, as a reviewer I have had some “bad” experiences. No matter how pesimitic are the revisions, they never reject, they often give the an opportunity to the authors.” [3]
  4. “Has anyone ever had a paper rejected from this journal? ” [4]
  5. “My take: any journal that considers rigour and validity only, and not perceived impact, will be less well regarded than an equivalent journal that has a good reputation for rigour and validity and also considers impact.” [5]

The journal’s scope mentioned in point 1 suggests that Nature Research has seen the potential of making a LOT of money by catering to a broad range of audiences without needing ground-breaking results. On the flip side, since many researchers work on niche topics, SR seems to be an excellent option if they choose to submit to an open-access journal – a win-win situation. However, SR is not a stranger to harsh criticism from the community. It seems that SR is very notorious for accepting low-quality research (for profit?) without a thorough review process, and there is a long-standing opinion on the web that they rarely reject papers – based on points 3 and 4. Concerning quality, I thought the response by Significance mentioned in point 5 was an interesting take. I share the same ideology, and I feel that a researcher who is used to reading journal articles in Nature, and Science, will think that SR accepts low-quality research. However, the fact that there have been cases when SR redacted articles and the stained opinion that they rarely reject papers is concerning. But in my opinion, I do not think SR is a predatory journal as many prominent researchers that I follow who are at reputable universities and research labs publish in it.

For a long time, I believed that no researcher who works in a niche-field should be desperate enough, if I may say, to pay money to publish in open-access journals. I always thought that submitting to open-access journals only makes sense if we are working on ideas that are ground-breaking in that they have the potential to be applied to several fields. I also felt that I wouldn’t want to submit to open-access journals as most of the readership for the work that I am doing will be from academics and researchers in research labs who will have the subscriptions to publishing giants like Springer, Elsevier, Sage, etc. While researching for this blog post, I learned that open-access journals accept payment from established funding agencies (e.g., NSF and NIH). So it looks like PI’s will now have to define publishing expenses in budget while they are submitting the proposals – not sure if it is already a thing. More importantly, I learned that more and more publishers and researchers are welcoming the open-access movement. As such, I am more willing to submit to one because who doesn’t like their work to have larger and broader exposure. Also, if I do submit to an open-access journal, I won’t have to log-in to the university VPN if I want to read an article from home.

References:

  1. https://www.nature.com/srep/guide-to-referees#criteria
  2. https://www.nature.com/srep/about/open-access-funding-and-payment#Article_processing_charge_APC_waivers
  3. [Comment by Miguel A. Munguia-Rosas] – https://www.researchgate.net/post/Is_this_a_predatory_journal2
  4. https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2016/06/15/more-on-scientific-reports-and-on-faked-papers
  5. The response of user named Significance at https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/76420/is-the-nature-publishing-groups-scientific-reports-journal-well-regarded

 

6 Replies to “Open access blog post”

  1. Hi there! I am so glad I read your post, and the person before you, because I am just now learning that most OA journals require you to pay to submit. I agree with your initial critique of this procedure. I can see how it appears “desperate” as you say to pay for a publication. Although, to your second point, I think about the opportunities that can be created when non-niche and niche researchers team up — the conclusions that may be drawn could be groundbreaking. Does this then violate your assumption?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. I don’t think it violates my assumption as long as the results are groundbreaking – it doesn’t matter if it is a single-author paper (usually rare, but not impossible) or if they have 10-20 authors from several disciplines 🙂

      However, as mentioned in the post, I am more open to OA journals now as more and more applied research (not necessarily ground-breaking) is appearing in a few of them. Maybe it will become the norm.

  2. Hi Vamsi, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! I have also seen comments about the lack of impact of OA journals, but I do still think they are good platforms for publishing research. I have heard the opinions of some professors in the ME and AOE departments here at VT, and they don’t seem to particularly like OA journals as there is a belief that the quality of the journals is subpar. I’m interested to see how or if these opinions change as OA becomes more popular.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Zakia. My outlook towards the OA journal is changing as they are becoming popular. Yes, I also think it will be interesting to see if senior professors will change their opinions.

  3. Hey Vamsi, thank you for your post.

    I don’t believe an open access journal should care that much about the impact or importance of an article while reviewing it. After all, it is for open access of the population. I feel like if the work has valid methodology and the conclusions made by the authors are supported by their data, shouldn’t there be enough to publish the scientific work since the journal is free?

    1. Thank you for your interesting comment, Nicholas.

      In an ideal world where the students are not judged based on the journals they publish in and where the faculty member’s tenure doesn’t depend on the impact factor of the journals they publish in, I think what you are saying is true. But unfortunately, people care about the status quo, and for that reason, I think the review process should be meticulous in upholding the journal’s standards. If the open access journals do not have a meticulous review process, then why would anyone pay to publish their work in these journals? They can just submit their work on arXiv, which doesn’t have any sort of review process.

      Please let me know your thoughts.

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