Since 2006 and the launch of PLOS ONE, the number of open-access mega-journals (OAMJs) has been steadily increasing. In a recent article, Simon Wakeling and colleagues present a bibliometric analysis of eleven leading OAMJs.
For the analysis, mega-journals were identified using a modified version of criteria first suggested by Björk. The primary criteria being big publishing volume (or at least aiming to achieve this), peer review that takes account of scientific soundness only, without consideration of originality or significance, a broad subject area, and full open access with publication funded by article processing charges. Key characteristics, namely journal output, author characteristics, subject areas and citation profile were then evaluated for each selected OAMJ.
The total output of the eleven mega journals grew by 14.9% between 2014 and 2015 with growth mainly attributable (85%) to the increased output of Scientific Reports and Medicine. The authors found that the geographic distribution of authors varied widely, with many journals (particularly Scientific Reports and Medicine) having a high proportion of Chinese authors, reflecting the relatively recent expansion in that country’s scholarly output. Subject scope also varied between the journals, with several journals accepting a high number of articles relating to certain sub-disciplines. Scientific Reports was found to be the most highly cited mega-journal, while for five of the journals examined, over half of all articles published in 2013 received fewer than three citations.
Wakeling et al conclude that while a ‘typical’ mega-journal does not exist, the term OAMJ remains a useful umbrella term for grouping journals which share a set of key characteristics. They highlight that a better understanding of OAMJ publishers’ long-term strategic aims and of academics’ perceptions of OAMJs would provide greater insight into future role of mega-journals in scholarly communication.