Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paleontology Journals - Policies, Costs, and Accessibility

When preparing to submit a paper for publication, journal choice is critical. Numerous factors play into the decision (distribution, audience, accessibility, and cost, just to name a few), as has been outlined in wonderful detail elsewhere. As I advance in my own research career, publisher behavior has become more important to me. Does the publisher of the journal to which I am submitting my manuscript conduct its business in a manner consistent with my own personal ethics? Who will have access to my research, and how much will it cost them? This is a tough question to sort out, and in reality there are no perfect players. However, in order to make this decision just a little easier, I assembled data about a number of journals relevant to my own research program.

The full data are posted on a freely-accessible Google spreadsheet, and this post explains each of the categories I recorded. Although I have a personal bias towards open access, I have attempted to present the data in the spreadsheet without commentary. Every person will have his or her own opinion about which factors matter most to him or her. In a follow-up post, I will provide my own opinions on which journals are "best". For now, please make up your own mind.

  • Title: self explanatory
  • Publisher / Distributor: This category indicates which organization distributes the journal; this may be the same as the sponsor of the journal, or the work may be contracted to an outside organization.
  • Publisher Status: Is the publisher a non-profit or for-profit entity? Some non-profit organizations publish their journals with a for-profit publisher, and some journals are purely non-profit or for-profit.
  • Sponsor: As alluded to above, some journals are ultimately coordinated by a scientific society. I understand that some scientific societies receive a portion of the profits from the for-profit publishers, so a journal published by a for-profit entity may not always be a net loss for scientific funding. However, I would caution that no data are available on what percentage of revenue actually reverts to societies.
  • OA (Open Access) Default: Some journals automatically post all articles as open access (either immediately or with a delay; indicated as "Yes" on the spreadsheet). Others have open access options only if the authors pay an extra fee (indicated as "No" on the spreadsheet).
  • Time to OA: Some OA journals (e.g., PNAS) have closed access for a set period of time (usually one year), and then automatically open the archives.
  • OA Fee & OA Fee Waiver: Most journals, even those that are not entirely OA, require a fee for open access. The fee varies from free (e.g., Acta Palaeontologica Polonica) to $3,250 (Historical Biology). In some cases (e.g., PLoS ONE) a fee waiver is available. For delayed OA journals (e.g., PNAS), the fee allows immediate OA posting of the article, rather than free OA after a set amount of time.
  • Download Fee: Delayed OA or non-OA journals require that non-subscribers (or those who do not have institutional access) pay a per-article charge. Within paleontology-focused journals, the cheapest is Journal of Paleontology ($12), and the most expensive are Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and Historical Biology ($41).
  • Free Supplementary Data: Increasingly, authors rely on supplementary data to publish and disseminate the measurements, cladistic tables, etc., supporting their papers. Most journals allow non-subscribers to access supplementary data; others (e.g., JVP and Cretaceous Research) require purchase of the entire article (even if the user already has obtained a legal copy as a physical reprint or PDF from the author).
  • IF: The "Impact Factor", the most "standard" (if opaque) form of which is calculated by Thomson Reuters, is a measure of the extent to which the articles within a journal are cited. Although this metric is often criticized, it is still an important consideration for many authors, and is thus included here.
  • Primarily Paleo?: In assembling this list, not all of the included journals are strictly paleontology-focused (e.g., Proceedings B, Nature). However, because they frequently include paleontology content, I felt it useful to include them.
  • Author Rights: Publishers vary greatly in the rights that are left in the hands of the authors. Although copyright issues are certainly important (i.e., whether the copyright remains with the author, or is transferred to a commercial publisher or professional society), here I focused on what the authors are allowed to do with their own work in the context of a personal (or institutional) web page. In some cases, the authors may post the final published PDF; in others, the authors may only post the unformatted text. In the most restrictive case (as mandated by the journal Geology), authors are not allowed to post any version of the article.
All information was drawn from the official web pages for the various journals; any errors are unintentional but possible, due either to my own misinterpretation or updated journal policies. If you find any mistakes, please let me know, and I will do my best to correct them. This list is not intended to be exhaustive by any means; instead, it focuses on the journals of most personal interest.

See the Data:
To view the spreadsheet, you can see the freely-available Google Spreadsheet, or an Excel spreadsheet, or this web page.

Coming up: Which journals do I think deserve applause for their policies?


Mike Taylor said...

Many thanks for putting this together, Andy. It's important stuff.

Brian Lee Beatty said...

I agree, having this sort of info easily accessible is hugely useful. I'd compiled some of these over the years myself, but making this sort of thing widely available is a BIG service to all of us, especially the students. Thanks Andy!

Mickey Mortimer said...

Thanks from me as well!

Anonymous said...

You should supplement your list with some journals from the GeJ portal
Best wishes