Highlights from Experiences with Open Access Journals

by Sandra Hausmann, Frontiers Business Development Manager

On March 31st we brought five high profile Frontiers editors together for a panel discussion at the ICIS hosted event in UC Davis: “ Frontiers in Publishing – Experiences with Open Access Journals”.

Mary Christopher, Field Chief Editor for Frontiers in Veterinary Science , Neelima Sinha, Specialty Chief Editor for Plant Evolution and Development, Cecilia Giulivi, Specialty Chief Editor for Cellular Biochemistry, Patrice Koehl, Specialty Chief Editor for Mathematics of Biomolecules, and Arne Ekstrom, Guest Associate Editor Frontiers in Human Neuroscience joined us for a lively discussion on open access and their experience as editors of Frontiers.

The event was moderated by MacKenzie Smith, head of the  library  at UC Davis, who challenged the panelists on how their experience as Frontiers editors influenced the way they viewed open access and how well open access was received within their disciplines.  The discussion also touched on article processing fees, quality, and volume of open access publications.


In general, open access was well received. Cecilia mentioned the fact that with OA authors can actually re-use their published work e.g. for teaching without infringing the publishers copy right, was a major improvement. Mary even pointed out that she always thought she knew her target audience and she was surprised to find that her paper has an audience she hadn’t imagined before. With open access and peer review systems such as Frontiers everything becomes more transparent and the turn around time is more rapid.

In most disciplines more and more of a conscious effort is taken to publish open access. The NIH mandates biosciences and neurosciences that papers need to be made publically available, some after an embargo of 6 months. Some disciplines like mathematics and physics take open access to a new level in such that the common understanding is that a paper should be made available immediately and should not necessarily wait to be vetted by a small group (through peer review). Arxiv allows papers to evolve, based on comments, and often papers evolve over time without the time stamp of peer review. This causes small difficulties for specialties, such as Mathematics of Biomolecules, that span across to life sciences, where pre publication up until recently has been unheard of. Which might change with the introduction of  bioRxiv for biology.

When talking about impact factors and volume, the views in the panel and the challenges between the disciplines varied quite a bit.  Neelima pointed out that her papers in Science and Nature were not the most highly cited papers, but the ones published open access  had received more citations. Patrice emphasized that number of citations and impact factor are very biased measures. He was more proud of a paper with 30 citation, that was read by the right people, then one of his papers with over 1000 citations. Arne on the other hand explained that from his experience in neurosciences, the most highly cited and impactful papers are in fact published in high impact factor journals.

Most of the disciplines represented on the panel are still very much impact factor driven. A major concern was that as long as young researchers, looking for their first grant or their first employment, were reviewed based on where their papers are published and how high the impact factor of that journal is, impact factors as quality measure would continue to dominate. In addition, the publish or perish mentality that commands many fields, leads to an explosion of papers. On the other hand, the increase in the number of publications also reflects on the growth in higher education.  It was concluded that with open access and thus the explosion of publications, new filters were needed quickly, but that with the new technological platforms they were coming along.


The whole event can be viewed at: http://uc-d.adobeconnect.com/p9bq9pxtcau/

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