The troubles of high-profile open access megajournals


The rise in open access journals was followed by the proliferation of open access megajournals, which were once expected to become a major publication platform of the future. We analyzed the bibliometric parameters of 11 megajournals sensu stricto according to the definition by Björk and compared them with three control groups of gold open-access journals that do not satisfy the criteria for megajournals and that do not apply the concept of “sound science”, namely the journals published under the PLoS, BMC and Hindawi brands. We show that nonselective megajournals have started to decline in all bibliometric parameters. These journals in particular have lost connection with the most advanced science as revealed by the decreasing citations to and from the top-tier journals. While some megajournals have underperformed on bibliometric parameters from the beginning of their existence, others experienced a short honeymoon period before declining. In contrast, major discipline-specific open-access journals remain competitive, and those published by less prominent publishers have even increased their performance. However, the discipline-specific open-access journals also display decreasing citations to and from the top-tier journals. Concluded, we provided the first evidence that the change in the perception of megajournals is associated with the deterioration of their bibliometric characteristics. The future of megajournals as a major publishing platform is now threatened.

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Data and materials availability

All data is available in the main text or the associated figures.

Change history

  • 28 November 2019

    In the original publication (Heneberg 2019), Fig.��5e does not properly label the values.


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The study was supported by the Charles University in Prague project Primus/MED/32. The funding body had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

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PH conceived the study, analyzed the data, wrote, revised and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Petr Heneberg.

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Petr Heneberg serves as the Academic Editor of PLoS ONE.

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Heneberg, P. The troubles of high-profile open access megajournals. Scientometrics 120, 733–746 (2019).

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  • Editorial policies
  • Journal publishing
  • Megajournals
  • Open-access publishing
  • Peer-review process