The appeal of peer-reviewed OA journals not charging authors

Researchers authoring scientific papers often face the dilemma of choosing a journal for publication.

If researchers choose to submit their paper to a very prestigious journal, the chances of being rejected are also very high, and they might then have to lose time while they make subsequent submissions to other journals. If, on the other hand, they submit to a less prestigious journal, they will expect their research not to become as well known and, therefore, less cited.

Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and other citation measurements are the standard way of quantifying the prestige of a journal, and by extension the visibility of the research papers it publishes. Or so has been the case for nearly half a century.

Nevertheless, the Open Access (OA) movement, in combination with the spread of social media, brought new channels for visibility and citation. The online paper can be made publicly available to readers for free, and measurable impact can be achieved virally by means of email distribution lists, twits, blogs, social networks and other devices for online sharing or recommendation.

Now a bottom-up initiative arising from the very ranks of the researcher community could be signalling a trend towards a change in the status quo in respect to impact measures. The recent San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is calling for a turn away from citation metrics as a way to evaluate research.

In this context, it is quite possible OA journals that do not charge a fee to authors for publication, yet have a solid peer-review policy, will become more appealing outlets, regardless of journal-level impact metrics. Authors may choose to publish for free and simply rely on their online networking to achieve an impact for their own paper.

This option may become particularly appealing to authors who have no specific funding for publisher fees, especially if funders and employers start to have doubts about the suitability of traditional citation metrics as a measure of research quality.

On the DOAJ directory are listed over nine thousand OA peer-reviewed journals that do not charge a publication fee. We find over sixty of these are devoted to Archaeology, just to take, as an example, one of the disciplines in the multidisciplinary make-up of the SimulPast project.