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Tearing Down The Paywalls?

Over the years scribbling this blog, I’ve often been frustrated when trying to provide readers with links to material I’ve referenced. This is because, in many cases, the scientific information in question has been published in a journal article that is blocked by a paywall.

But just like with newspapers and magazines, the world of scientific journal publications has dramatically changed in the past 10 years.

Frustration with blocked online-access to scientific papers, the majority of which were the result of publicly-funded research, led many people, including scientists, to demand that publishers provide less restrictive access.

Bowing to this outcry (and likely fearing legislation requiring free access to publicly-funded research results), many publishers responded by providing partial open-access options to authors (for a fee, of course).

Alternatively, some scientists (and even some publishers) established fully open-access scientific journals, where authors could publish peer-reviewed scientific research free to view on the Internet. (In most cases, authors are charged a “publication fee” that varies from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.)

You may have noticed that almost everything involved with the Internet these days seems to be in a constant state of flux. And scientific publication on the Internet is no exception (see Addendum below, for example).

But since I don’t have the time or space here to cover all the myriad of ways one can publish scientific information these days, please allow me to offer you a few tidbits.

What is meant by: Open Access (Wikipedia)

For your perusal: a Directory of Open Access Journals

Some recent news: Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet

And, of course, we can’t forget Caveat emptorPredatory publishers are corrupting open access, and be sure to check potential open-access journals at the website Scholarly Open Access. (This website was shut down January 2017 – see “In related news” below.)

Here’s my list – in no particular order – of full open-access plant science journals*:

*Please note, this list is biased. These journals tend to feature articles in the realms of plant physiology and/or plant molecular biology, because, after all, this blog is about how plants work.

For each journal, I’ve included the year of first publication, relative ranking (citations), publisher information, and publication fee. (Please also see legend below for further explanation.) Also, I may have missed a journal or two (or even more than two), so please leave a comment if I’ve overlooked your favorite open-access plant science journal.

  • AoB Plants (0,624) [16] (Oxford) 2010 {$1,000}
  • International Journal of Plant Biology (0,107) [5] 2010 {$560}
  • Frontiers in Plant Science (1,552) [36] 2007 {$2,490}
  • Applications in Plant Science* [6] (Botanical Society of America) 2013 {$1,200}
  • Current Plant Biology* (Elsevier) 2014 {$2,000}
  • Plant Biotechnology Journal (2,034) [51] (Wiley) 2003 {$2,720}

  • PLOS ONE – Plant Science [161 for PLOS ONE] 2006 {$1,495}

    ( ) = SJR Journal Rankings – Plant Science – 2014 (* indicates journal likely too new for ranking)

    [ ] = Google Scholar Metrics value

    { } = publication fee (Please note: actual fee may differ depending on various factors, such as society membership, type of publication, type of open access, etc.)

    Partial Open-Access Plant Science Journals

    To be fair, I should also mention that some plant science journals now offer authors the option to publish open-access articles (typically, for a publication fee). However, journals published by scientific societies, such as the ASPB and BSA, discount (even waive) this fee if the corresponding authors are members of the society or if their institution subscribes to the journal (please see Ref. 1 below, for example).

    I’d like to highlight the journal Plant Physiology in this regard. If the corresponding author is a member of the ASPB, then there is no publication fee to make the paper fully open-access. A brief accounting of the number of fully open-access papers published in 2015 for this relatively high-impact plant science journal (please see here, for example) revealed that the majority of the published papers were fully open-access articles. Thanks Plant Physiology!

    Addendum: Different Categories of “Open-Access”

    Apparently there exists at least two levels of “open-access”, so-called “gold” and “green”.

    I’ll leave it to the Nature Publishing Group to define:

    Gold open access:

    “Article is made open access immediately on publication.
    Usually associated with an Article Processing Charge (APC).
    Article is freely available on our platform.
    Article is the version of record, i.e. publisher’s typeset PDF.
    CC BY licence allows unrestricted reuse of the article providing the author(s) and original source are properly cited. CC BY is the default license for all NPG-owned fully open access titles. Other licences are available.”

    versus, Green open access:

    “Open access after an embargo period (though an embargo will not apply in all cases).
    Article is made freely available but somewhere other than the publisher’s website, e.g. in a subject or university repository, or the author’s homepage.
    Open access article is not necessarily the version of record – it could be the typeset PDF or the author’s final version after peer review but before typesetting.
    Rights/re-use may be limited.”

    Update: E.U. urged to free all scientific papers by 2020

    In Related News:
    Springer Nature to extend content sharing to whole Springer Nature-owned journal portfolio

    Who’s downloading pirated papers?…Everyone!

    Controversial website that listed predatory open-access publishers shuts down

    Predatory journals recruit fake editor


    1. Ort, D. (2006) “RT-Plant Physiology: Full Open Access Publishing at No Charge to ASPB Members” Plant Physiology, Vol. 142, p. 5. (Full Text)

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