Traditional Factors of Fit, Perceived Quality, and Speed of Publication Still Outweigh Open Access in Authors’ Journal Selection Criteria
AbstractObjective – To determine the extent to which the open access (OA) status of a journal influences authors in their journal selection decisions and to analyze the sources of funding for the article-processing charges (APCs) applied in professional OA publishing.
Design – Survey questionnaire.
Setting – The international open access scholarly publishing sector.
Subjects – 1,038 researchers across all academic disciplines who have recently published work in open access journals that charge APCs.
Methods – Journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals were stratified into seven discipline clusters, and systematic random sampling was used where possible to collect a sample of up to 15 journals per cluster that levy APCs. For each individual journal, the authors of the 15 most recently published articles (working from 2010 backwards) were invited to complete a web-based questionnaire on the factors influencing their choice of journal and the source(s) used to fund processing charges. Additional background information about the authors and journals was also collected and merged with the survey responses.
Main Results – The results of the survey identified the fit of the article with the journal’s subject area, the perceived quality or impact of the journal, and the speed of the peer-review and publishing process as the dominant factors in the journal selection decision of authors. All three aspects were judged as either “very important” or “important” by 80% or more of respondents – significantly higher than the corresponding figure of 60% in relation to the open access status of the journal.
The analysis also indicated that two key elements appear to influence how APCs are funded: the research discipline and the country of origin of the author. The use of research grants to fund charges is more prevalent in scientific disciplines than in the humanities, whilst researchers based in lower-income countries more frequently identify APCs as a barrier than those in higher-income countries. Grants and institutional funding tend to be the primary sources of funding for journals with higher APCs, whilst personal funding is utilised more often in cases where the fee is less than $500.
Conclusion – Despite the increasing focus on the accessibility and visibility of research, academics still appear to place a greater value on ‘who’ rather than ‘how many’ readers access their research, and consequently traditional factors still persist as the main determinants in an author’s choice of journal. The future success of the APC model, compared with the traditional subscription-based or hybrid models, will ultimately depend on the ability of authors to obtain the necessary funding to pay such charges, combined with the extent to which the quality of services offered by open access publishers is perceived as being commensurate with the associated publishing fees.
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