These are hard times for the print media. Newspapers and magazine subscriptions are declining and a number of publications have folded or cut back on their offerings. No wonder. Why pay money to get a newspaper delivered to your door step when you can read the same news on your laptop, and for free?
Will the same trend of online publication sweep up scientific publications? Although the major journals are making gestures at an online presence, they still rely primarily on paper and ink and restrict print or online articles to those who will pay to read them. However, “open access” online publications are challenging traditional journals and there are titles that cover just about every discipline. For example, Libertas Academica (Aukland, New Zealand) publishes 87 peer reviewed journals, ranging from Air, Soil and Water Research to Virology: Research and Treatment. Many of their journals are “insightful,” for example, Analytical Chemistry Insights, Autism Insights, Cell Biology Insights, Organic Chemistry Insights, and some twenty-odd Clinical Medicine Insights in various disciplines. No doubt the insight tag is applied to distinguish their journals from similar names that are better known.
Almost all of these Libertas Academica journals are open access—anyone can open and read an article by clicking on a pdf link on the website with no charge. This is great for the reader but not so great for the author. The publisher must make a profit somehow, so the authors pay for publication. These “article processing fees” average about $1500 but vary from $950–$1848, a lot less than the $3000 that Elsevier charges to make its articles open access, but not trivial.
Other online open access journals charge much lower fees. The European Journal of Chemistry has fees that total about $200. If an author wants to publish in an online, open access journal, this can be done at an affordable price and will theoretically reach a larger audience than more prestigious journals that restrict access. The question remains, what sort of reputation do online journals have? At the moment I don’t think any online-only journals rival traditional journals in terms of prestige. But many of them are respectable. If you are considering publishing in one of these journals, scan through the table of contents and see who is publishing in it. Then read a few articles and see what sort of quality they are.
Many online journals are only a few years old and haven’t had time to establish their reputations. But I predict they are a wave of the future. Remember that twenty-five years ago the entire internet was a joke, a refuge for “the eccentric, the untalented, and the shrill.” No more.
Some links to online open access journal information