The scholarly open access journal movement seems to be getting quite a bit of momentum behind it, and one instance of this is Impactstory, “a nonprofit, open-source webapp that helps scientists discover and share the full impact of their research.” Now Impactstory has just shared a detailed breakdown of the case in favor of the “online-only, open access journals that cover many subjects and publish content based only on whether it is scientifically sound” – megajournals, in Impacstory’s terminology. However, while all for the argument that megajournals “offer a path to a more efficient, faster, more open scholarly publishing world,” Impactstory admits that they do “carry some potential career liabilities.” And their introduction is a guide to how to avoid those.
Much of the guide, admittedly, is devoted to advice on how to dispel those liabilities by evangelizing skeptical peers and co-authors with the arguments for megajournals: they publish prestigious science, they boost citation and readership impact, they promote real-world use, they publish fast, and they save money (in the case of the curious academic practice of paying for publication – not exactly vanity publishing, but still …). There’s also arguments – and data – to foster wider readership of megajournals; and to blunt the impact of megajournal publication on a researcher’s CV by showing their reach. Because, as the authors also admit, “it’s a sad fact that reviewers for tenure and promotion often judge the quality of articles by the journal of publication when skimming CVs. Most megajournal titles won’t ring any bells (yet).” So they demonstrate ways – including of course, Impactstory itself – to prove the impact of megajournal publication.
So here is a primer for megajournal evangelism in the guise of a help-me guide. Is that a bad thing? It would be a lot easier to dismiss the self-promotional aspects if the case for megajournals wasn’t so damn good. And at least the authors do come clean about where it does fall down. Meanwhile, given the rate at which orthodox scientific journal publishing seems to be covering itself in shame, megajournals may one day be the only viable option.