Costs and benefits of publishing in legacy journals vs. new journals
I recently published a paper in Open Differential Psychology. After it was published, I decided to tell some colleagues about it so that they would not miss it because it is not published in any of the two primary journals in the field: Intell or PAID (Intelligence, Personal and Individual Differences). My email is this:
I wish to inform you about my paper which has just been published in Open Differential Psychology.
Abstract Many studies have examined the correlations between national IQs and various country-level indexes of well-being. The analyses have been unsystematic and not gathered in one single analysis or dataset. In this paper I gather a large sample of country-level indexes and show that there is a strong general socioeconomic factor (S factor) which is highly correlated (.86-.87) with national cognitive ability using either Lynn and Vanhanen's dataset or Altinok's. Furthermore, the method of correlated vectors shows that the correlations between variable loadings on the S factor and cognitive measurements are .99 in both datasets using both cognitive measurements, indicating that it is the S factor that drives the relationship with national cognitive measurements, not the remaining variance.
You can read the full paper at the journal website: http://openpsych.net/ODP/2014/09/the-international-general-socioeconomic-factor-factor-analyzing-international-rankings/
One researcher responded with:
Dear Emil, Thanks for your paper. Why not publishing in standard well established well recognized journals listed in Scopus and Web of Science benefiting from review and increasing your reputation after publishing there? Go this way! Best, NAME
This concerns the decision of choosing where to publish. I discussed this in a blog post back in March before setting up OpenPsych. To be very short, the benefits of publishing in legacy journals is 1) recognition, 2) indexing in proprietary indexes (SCOPUS, WoS, etc.), 3) perhaps better peer review, 4) perhaps fancier appearance of the final paper. The first is very important if one is an up-and-coming researcher (like me) because one will need recognition from university people to get hired.
I nevertheless decided NOT to publish (much) in legacy journals. In fact, the reason I got into publishing studies so late is that I dislike the legacy journals in this field (and most other fields). Why dislike legacy journals? I made an overview here, but to sum it up: 1) Either not open access or extremely pricey, 2) no data sharing, 3) in-transparent peer review system, 4) very slow peer review (~200 days on average in case of Intell and PAID), 5) you're supporting companies that add little value to science and charge insane amounts of money for it (for Elsevier, see e.g. Wikipedia, TechDirt has a large number of posts concerning that company alone).
As a person who strongly believes in open science (data, code, review, access), there is no way I can defend a decision to publish in Elsevier journals. Their practices are clearly antithetical to science. I also signed The Cost of Knowledge petition not to publish or review for them. Elsevier has a strong economic interest in keeping up their practices and I'm sure they will. The only way to change science for the better is to publish in other journals.
Aside from Elsevier journals, one could publish in PLoS or Frontiers journals. They are open access, right? Yes, and that's a good improvement. They however are also predatory because they charge exorbitant fees to publish: 1600 € (Frontiers), 1350 US$ (PLoS). One might as well publish in Elsevier as open access for which they charge 1800 US$.
So are there any open access journals without publication fees in this field? There is only one as far as I know, the newly established Journal of Intelligence. However, the journal site states that the lack of a publication fee is a temporary state of affairs, so there seems to be no reason to help them get established by publishing in their journal. After realizing this, I began work on starting a new journal. I knew that there was a lot of talent in the blogosphere with a similar mindset to me who could probably be convinced to review for and publish in the new journal.
But what about indexing? Web of Science and SCOPUS are both proprietary; not freely available to anyone with an internet connection. But there is a fast-growing alternative: Google Scholar. Scholar is improving rapidly compared to the legacy indexers and is arguably already better since it indexes a host of grey literature sources that the legacy indexers don't cover. A recent article compared Scholar to WOS. I quote:
Abstract Web of Science (WoS) and Google Scholar (GS) are prominent citation services with distinct indexing mechanisms. Comprehensive knowledge about the growth patterns of these two citation services is lacking. We analyzed the development of citation counts in WoS and GS for two classic articles and 56 articles from diverse research fields, making a distinction between retroactive growth (i.e., the relative difference between citation counts up to mid-2005 measured in mid-2005 and citation counts up to mid-2005 measured in April 2013) and actual growth (i.e., the relative difference between citation counts up to mid-2005 measured in April 2013 and citation counts up to April 2013 measured in April 2013). One of the classic articles was used for a citation-by-citation analysis. Results showed that GS has substantially grown in a retroactive manner (median of 170 % across articles), especially for articles that initially had low citations counts in GS as compared to WoS. Retroactive growth of WoS was small, with a median of 2 % across articles. Actual growth percentages were moderately higher for GS than for WoS (medians of 54 vs. 41 %). The citation-by-citation analysis showed that the percentage of citations being unique in WoS was lower for more recent citations (6.8 % for citations from 1995 and later vs. 41 % for citations from before 1995), whereas the opposite was noted for GS (57 vs. 33 %). It is concluded that, since its inception, GS has shown substantial expansion, and that the majority of recent works indexed in WoS are now also retrievable via GS. A discussion is provided on quantity versus quality of citations, threats for WoS, weaknesses of GS, and implications for literature research and research evaluation. … A second threat for WoS is that in the future, GS may cover all works covered by WoS. We found that for the period 1995–2013, 6.8 % of the citations to Garfield (1955) were unique in WoS, indicating that a very large share of works indexed in WoS is now also retrievable by GS. In line with this observation, based on an analysis of 29 systematic reviews in the medical domain, Gehanno et al. (2013) recently concluded that: ‘‘The coverage of GS for the studies included in the systematic reviews is 100 %. If the authors of the 29 systematic reviews had used only GS, no reference would have been missed’’. GS’s coverage of WoS could in principle become complete in which case WoS could become a subset of GS that could be selected via a GS option ‘‘Select WoS-indexed journals and conferences only’’. 2 Together with its full-text search and its searching of the grey literature, it is possible that GS becomes the primary literature source for meta-analyses and systematic reviews. [source]
In other words, Scholar covers almost all the articles that WoS covers already and is quickly catching up on the older studies too. In a few years Scholar will cover close to 100% of the articles in legacy indexers and they will be nearly obsolete.
One thing related to the above is getting noticed by other researchers. Since many researchers read legacy journals, simply being published in them is likely sufficient to get some attention (and citations!). It is however not the only way. The internet has changed the situation here completely in that there are new lots of different ways to get noticed: 1) Twitter, 2) ResearchGate, 3) Facebook/Google+, 4) Reddit, 5) Google Scholar will inform you about new any research by anyone one has cited previously, 6) blogs (own or others') and 7) emails to colleagues (as above).
Peer review in OpenPsych is innovative in two ways: 1) it is forum-style instead of email-based which is better suited for communication between more than 2 persons, 2) it is openly visible which works against biased reviewing. Aside from this, it is also much faster, currently averaging 20 days in review.
Reputation and career
There is clearly a drawback here for publishing in OpenPsych journals compared with legacy journals. Any new journal is likely to be viewed as not serious by many researchers. Most people dislike changes including academics (perhaps especially?). Publishing there will not improve chances of getting hired as much as will publishing in primary journals. So one must weigh what is most important: science or career?