As readers of The Publication Plan, you will be aware of the recent rise in demand for open access publishing. But have you ever questioned the quality of the research that is being published with open access? Concerns have been raised that if the income of a journal is dependent on the number of articles published, rather than on subscription fees, then the peer review process may be undermined and substandard articles may be published.
In a recent study, Pastorino et al, compared the quality of primary epidemiological studies and systematic reviews and meta-analyses in subscription-based journals to those published with open access. The authors selected the first case-control or cohort studies and first systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in 2013 in open access and non-open access journals from the oncology field. They assessed the quality of the reports by evaluating compliance to methodological quality scales (Newcastle and Ottawa Scale [NOS] and Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews [AMSTAR] scale) and reporting guidelines (STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology [STROBE] and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis [PRISMA] checklists).
No significant differences were observed with regards to methodological quality or quality of reporting between open access and non-open access journals. Although these results are encouraging, further studies involving a larger set of papers and additional fields of research are needed to provide reassurance that the quality of open access and non-open access publishing is comparable.