There is an old saying that “you get what you pay for,” that is, a higher priced product is of higher quality and worth the extra money. Open access journals vary greatly in the prices they charge to publish articles, from almost nothing to several thousand dollars. Are the higher priced journals worth the extra money?
Quality vs. Publication Cost
Jevin West, a researcher at the University of Washington, developed a tool to analyze the cost effectiveness of open access journals. The tool first rates journals by a score that considers how many citations the publications generate on average and how prestigious the journals are that cite them—a sort of weighted impact factor. After normalizing to give an average Article Influence (AI) of 1 for all journals analyzed, the data are plotted vs. cost of publication. The correlation between publication cost and AI is weak. There is a slight trend of higher AI with higher publication cost but what is remarkable is the scatter in the data. At every cost point in the plot there is a huge variation of AI—high, low, average. Some of the lowest price journals have among the highest AI, while some of the highest priced journals have very low AI.
Cost-effectiveness of Open Access Journals
One thing you can do with the AI data is determine which journals offer the best return on investment, the most citations per dollar spent to publish in the journal. Using this measure the best value journal is Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, which charges a mere $73 to publish papers but gets majority citations. Second and third are Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology and Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, respectively, which are even cheaper. Nine out of ten of the best-value journals charge no more than $500 to publish papers (the exception was Journal of Clinical Investigation, which charges $1500). On the other hand, the lowest value journal was one of the most expensive—the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, which charges a hefty $4000 to publish a paper.
High Cost Does Not Guarantee High Quality
The bottom line is that paying a high price to publish in an open access journal does not guarantee a better chance for citations. In this regard you don’t necessarily get what you pay for. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has bought a car. The prices do not always correlate with quality—some expensive cars prove to be lemons, some modestly priced models are good investments. Before publishing in an open access journal it’s a good idea to take a look at the best value ratings online. This should not be the sole consideration for choosing a journal, but it may steer you away from a potential lemon and towards a better value.
For more information on open access price vs. quality see the following link: