The entry of open-access journals need not signal the “death of scientific journals” , but rather the birth of widely accessible information placed in the hands of those who seek it. The accountability for high quality research, reviews, editorials and position papers remains with the author(s) and academic institutions in which they train, practice, teach or conduct research. Search Committees, Admissions Committees, Thesis Committees and Appointment, Promotion and Tenure Committees must be increasingly cognizant of potential trends in low-risk publishing practices. In addition, a major challenge lies in the power of temptation for applicants competing for highly prized positions, those seeking promotions and the “publish or perish” mentality of academia. A case in point is illustrated by Nguyen and colleagues who reported 113 publications in solicited content surgery journals over a 3-month period at a cost of ~ $83,000 USD. The median journal impact factor was 0.13 and many did not have a publishing or citation index . A majority of the authors, including some senior authors, admitted to not having success publishing in “traditional” journals.
Accountability within the publishing industry is vital to maintaining high quality, peer-reviewed and scholarly standards. This requires strict adherence to policies, practices, indexing and both data and code availability for reproducibility post-publication upon request . A journal integrity index with independent oversight, has been suggested as a means to distinguish high quality from poor quality publishing . There are several other options to improve transparency that include:
Directory of open access journals
DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open-access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent. All funding is via donations, 40% of which comes from sponsors and 60% from members and publisher members. All DOAJ services are free of charge, including index entry in DOAJ. All data is freely available.
DOAJ operates an education and outreach program across the globe, focusing on improving the quality of applications submitted. There are currently 12,431 journals, 9476 that are searchable at the article level and 3,621,478 articles (website accessed December 28, 2018).
Journal citation reports
The Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is an annual publication produced by Clarivate Analytics that provides information for scientists, researchers, libraries, publishers and academic institutions with a focus on natural sciences and social sciences (website accessed January 1, 2019). JCR is integrated with the Web of Science Core Collection. The value of a given journal is assessed through use of metrics, analytic tools and transparency of the data and publisher. There are several related products that include: InCites (an objective analysis of authors, programs and peers) and Essential Science Indicators (a database of emerging science, institutions, publications and reputable journals in specific fields of research).
PubMed, established in 1996, is a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health maintains the database as part of the Entrez system of information retrieval. Publishers whose journals are indexed in MEDLINE must submitcitation and abstract data electronically for inclusion in PubMed. Electronic submissions ensure that citations and abstracts are available to the public more rapidly, assignment of medical subject heading (MeSH) terms will take place more quickly, and each citation can display a link to the publisher’s web site for access to full-text. Publishers are also encouraged to submit full text for inclusion in PubMed Central (website accessed January 1, 2019).
The NLM uses an NIH-chartered committee, the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC), to review and recommend biomedical and health-related life science journals for inclusion in MEDLINE®. Journals must first be suitable for the NLM collection and have subject material appropriate for MEDLINE before they are considered for review by LSTRC. When reviewing an application, NLM scrutinizes materials for conformance with guidelines and best practices published by professional organizations, including recommendations for the conduct, reporting, editing, and publication of scholarly work in medical Journals from International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.
A journal currently indexed in MEDLINE, should it become an online only publication must comply with the MEDLINE Policy on Indexing Electronic Journals. The NLM offers assistance to the publisher of an electronic-only journal to ensure compliance with its policy to assure that the journal’s citations can be found in MEDLINE/PubMed. If an electronic-only journal is not able to meet the policy requirements, the journal will no longer be indexed in MEDLINE prospectively.