A recent blog and editorial by Professor Jens Nielsen (Editor-in-Chief of FEMS Yeast Research) discuss several pressing issues in scientific publishing, including predatory journals, the usefulness of journal impact factors and the continued rise of open-access publication. Professor Nielsen suggests that, despite the importance of scientific publications in helping researchers to keep abreast of their field, most scientists spend little time reflecting on the challenges inherent to the industry.
In his articles, Professor Nielsen details the increase over recent years in the number of journals in the marketplace, and the concomitant rise in competition for manuscripts. He advocates that researchers consider journals run by not-for-profit societies, arguing this ultimately benefits researchers. Predatory journals are also discussed, and readers are prompted to consider several key questions to ascertain whether a journal is genuine or predatory. Journal impact factor has traditionally been used to judge the quality of a journal and its articles, and continues to influence recruitment and career development in some fields and countries. Professor Nielsen contends though that impact factor is an inadequate measure, easily skewed by a small number of frequently-cited articles, and that more information needs to be applied to effectively judge the quality of a publication.
The future of scientific publishing is difficult to accurately predict. While traditionally, journals raised revenue through library subscriptions, Professor Nielsen suggests that this method of revenue generation will likely disappear as the trend towards open-access publication continues. While concluding that open access has many benefits, and is now often required by funders, he makes the case that there might also be inadvertent negative consequences if publication is to move solely to this model. For example, publishers might need to charge vastly higher open-access fees than is currently the case, and no longer be able to afford to generate highly-valued original content such as news articles. Professor Nielsen urges researches to join the publications community in engaging in discussions on these issues.