Now that the Open-Access Mega-Journals (OAMJ) project is underway, we are looking carefully at the scholarly and professional discourses on mega-journals. One of the key initial questions is one of definition. What constitutes a mega-journal?
Normally, mega-journals have been defined with reference to two criteria. Firstly, there is breadth of scope. Mega-journals have a very broad coverage of subjects. Often they explicitly encourage submission of interdisciplinary work. Secondly, there is quality control, defined in terms of “scientific soundness” in particular. Mega-journals normally do not take account of issues such as “novelty” or “importance”, which are seen as more subjective. Instead, post-publication article-level metrics are used to assess the community’s view of what is novel or important. These two criteria naturally lead to mega-journals becoming much larger than has traditionally been the case for academic journals.
But how broad do journals have to be in their coverage to be classed as a mega-journal? Should they cover a whole discipline or more than one disciplinary area? Also, precisely how do quality assessment criteria have to be framed to exclude novelty or importance? How might this happen in different disciplines; for example in the humanities, is there an equivalent of “scientific soundness”? And in any case, how do peer reviewers actually behave in terms of ignoring issues such as novelty or importance?
Mega-journals have normally been seen as an open-access phenomenon but it seems that the label may first have been used in a non-OA environment. So, do mega-journals have to be open access or is it possible to have subscription, or hybrid subscription/OA, mega-journals?
Over recent years, it seems that different views have been expressed about these issues and we are currently now examining the different strands of the debate. This is not just about defining a concept, of course; it is more about defining what is important in the research publishing environment and how it should develop. Definitions are important in helping us to gain a better understanding of what the key issues are and how things are developing in the rapidly changing scholarly communication environment.
Any comments you might have would be most welcome.