Academic journal

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There are different types of peer-reviewed research journals; these specific publications are about food science. Vitoria-University-Library-food-science-journals-4489.jpg
There are different types of peer-reviewed research journals; these specific publications are about food science.

An academic journal or scholarly journal is a periodical publication in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. They serve as permanent and transparent forums for the presentation, scrutiny, and discussion of research. They nearly universally require peer review for research articles or other scrutiny from contemporaries competent and established in their respective fields. [1] [2]



Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, review articles, or book reviews. The purpose of an academic journal, according to Henry Oldenburg (the first editor of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society ), is to give researchers a venue to "impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences." [3]

The term academic journal applies to scholarly publications in all fields; this article discusses the aspects common to all academic field journals. Scientific journals and journals of the quantitative social sciences vary in form and function from journals of the humanities and qualitative social sciences; their specific aspects are separately discussed.

The first academic journal was Journal des sçavans (January 1665), followed soon after by Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (March 1665), and Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences (1666). The first fully peer-reviewed journal was Medical Essays and Observations (1733). [4]


Adrien Auzout's "A TABLE of the Apertures of Object-Glasses" from a 1665 article in Philosophical Transactions, showing a table Philosophical Transactions - Volume 001.djvu
Adrien Auzout's "A TABLE of the Apertures of Object-Glasses" from a 1665 article in Philosophical Transactions , showing a table

The idea of a published journal with the purpose of "[letting] people know what is happening in the Republic of Letters" was first conceived by François Eudes de Mézeray in 1663. A publication titled Journal littéraire général was supposed to be published to fulfill that goal, but never was. Humanist scholar Denis de Sallo (under the pseudonym "Sieur de Hédouville") and printer Jean Cusson took Mazerai's idea, and obtained a royal privilege from King Louis XIV on 8 August 1664 to establish the Journal des sçavans . The journal's first issue was published on 5 January 1665. It was aimed at people of letters, and had four main objectives: [5]

  1. review newly published major European books,
  2. publish the obituaries of famous people,
  3. report on discoveries in arts and science, and
  4. report on the proceedings and censures of both secular and ecclesiastical courts, as well as those of universities both in France and outside.

Soon after, the Royal Society established Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in March 1665, and the Académie des Sciences established the Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences in 1666, which focused on scientific communications. [6] By the end of the 18th century, nearly 500 such periodicals had been published, [7] the vast majority coming from Germany (304 periodicals), France (53), and England (34). Several of those publications, in particular the German journals, tended to be short-lived (under five years). A.J. Meadows has estimated the proliferation of journals to reach 10,000 journals in 1950, and 71,000 in 1987. Michael Mabe wrote that the estimates will vary depending on the definition of what exactly counts as a scholarly publication, but that the growth rate has been "remarkably consistent over time", with an average rate of 3.46% per year from 1800 to 2003. [8]

In 1733, Medical Essays and Observations was established by the Medical Society of Edinburgh as the first fully peer-reviewed journal. [4] Peer review was introduced as an attempt to increase the quality and pertinence of submissions. [9] Other important events in the history of academic journals include the establishment of Nature (1869) and Science (1880), the establishment of Postmodern Culture in 1990 as the first online-only journal, the foundation of arXiv in 1991 for the dissemination of preprints to be discussed prior to publication in a journal, and the establishment of PLOS One in 2006 as the first megajournal. [4]

Scholarly articles

There are two kinds of article or paper submissions in academia: solicited, where an individual has been invited to submit work either through direct contact or through a general submissions call, and unsolicited, where an individual submits a work for potential publication without directly being asked to do so. [10] Upon receipt of a submitted article, editors at the journal determine whether to reject the submission outright or begin the process of peer review. In the latter case, the submission becomes subject to review by outside scholars of the editor's choosing who typically remain anonymous. The number of these peer reviewers (or "referees") varies according to each journal's editorial practice – typically, no fewer than two, though sometimes three or more, experts in the subject matter of the article produce reports upon the content, style, and other factors, which inform the editors' publication decisions.

Though these reports are generally confidential, some journals and publishers also practice public peer review. The editors either choose to reject the article, ask for a revision and resubmission, or accept the article for publication. Even accepted articles are often subjected to further (sometimes considerable) editing by journal editorial staff before they appear in print. The peer review can take from several weeks to several months. [11]


Review articles

Review articles, also called "reviews of progress", are checks on the research published in journals. Some journals are devoted entirely to review articles, some contain a few in each issue, and others do not publish review articles. Such reviews often cover the research from the preceding year, some for longer or shorter terms; some are devoted to specific topics, some to general surveys. Some reviews are enumerative, listing all significant articles in a given subject; others are selective, including only what they think worthwhile. Yet others are evaluative, judging the state of progress in the subject field. Some journals are published in series, each covering a complete subject field year, or covering specific fields through several years. Unlike original research articles, review articles tend to be solicited or "peer-invited" submissions, often planned years in advance, which may themselves go through a peer-review process once received. [12] [13] They are typically relied upon by students beginning a study in a given field, or for current awareness of those already in the field. [12]

Book reviews

Reviews of scholarly books are checks upon the research books published by scholars; unlike articles, book reviews tend to be solicited. Journals typically have a separate book review editor determining which new books to review and by whom. If an outside scholar accepts the book review editor's request for a book review, he or she generally receives a free copy of the book from the journal in exchange for a timely review. Publishers send books to book review editors in the hope that their books will be reviewed. The length and depth of research book reviews varies much from journal to journal, as does the extent of textbook and trade book review. [14]

Prestige and ranking

An academic journal's prestige is established over time, and can reflect many factors, some but not all of which are expressible quantitatively. In each academic discipline, some journals receive a high number of submissions and opt to restrict how many they publish, keeping the acceptance rate low. [15] Size or prestige are not a guarantee of reliability. [16]

In the natural sciences and in the social sciences, the impact factor is an established proxy, measuring the number of later articles citing articles already published in the journal. There are other quantitative measures of prestige, such as the overall number of citations, how quickly articles are cited, and the average "half-life" of articles. Clarivate Analytics' Journal Citation Reports , which among other features, computes an impact factor for academic journals, draws data for computation from the Science Citation Index Expanded (for natural science journals), and from the Social Sciences Citation Index (for social science journals). [15] Several other metrics are also used, including the SCImago Journal Rank, CiteScore, Eigenfactor, and Altmetrics.

In the Anglo-American humanities, there is no tradition (as there is in the sciences) of giving impact-factors that could be used in establishing a journal's prestige. Recent moves have been made by the European Science Foundation (ESF) to change the situation, resulting in the publication of preliminary lists for the ranking of academic journals in the humanities. [15] These rankings have been severely criticized, notably by history and sociology of science British journals that have published a common editorial entitled "Journals under Threat". [17] Though it did not prevent ESF and some national organizations from proposing journal rankings, it largely prevented their use as evaluation tools. [18]

In some disciplines such as knowledge management/intellectual capital, the lack of a well-established journal ranking system is perceived by academics as "a major obstacle on the way to tenure, promotion and achievement recognition". [19] onversely, a significant number of scientists and organizations consider the pursuit of impact factor calculations as inimical to the goals of science, and have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment to limit its use.

The categorization of journal prestige in some subjects has been attempted, typically using letters to rank their academic world importance.[ citation needed ]

Three categories of techniques have developed to assess journal quality and create journal rankings: [20]


Many academic journals are subsidized by universities or professional organizations, and do not exist to make a profit. They often accept advertising, page and image charges from authors to pay for production costs. On the other hand, some journals are produced by commercial publishers who do make a profit by charging subscriptions to individuals and libraries. They may also sell all of their journals in discipline-specific collections or a variety of other packages. [22]

Journal editors tend to have other professional responsibilities, most often as teaching professors. In the case of the largest journals, there are paid staff assisting in the editing. The production of the journals is almost always done by publisher-paid staff. Humanities and social science academic journals are usually subsidized by universities or professional organization. [23]

The cost and value proposition of subscription to academic journals is being continuously re-assessed by institutions worldwide. In the context of the big deal cancellations by several library systems in the world, [24] data analysis tools like Unpaywall Journals are used by libraries to estimate the specific cost and value of the various options: libraries can avoid subscriptions for materials already served by instant open access via open archives like PubMed Central. [25]

New developments

In the 21st century, journals are commonly accessed digitally Scholarly journals on screens.jpg
In the 21st century, journals are commonly accessed digitally

The Internet has revolutionized the production of, and access to, academic journals, with their contents available online via services subscribed to by academic libraries. Individual articles are subject-indexed in databases such as Google Scholar. Some of the smallest, most specialized journals are prepared in-house, by an academic department, and published only online – such form of publication has sometimes been in the blog format though some, like the open access journal Internet Archaeology, use the medium to embed searchable datasets, 3D models, and interactive mapping. [26] Currently, there is a movement in higher education encouraging open access, either via self archiving, whereby the author deposits a paper in a disciplinary or institutional repository where it can be searched for and read, or via publishing it in a free open access journal, which does not charge for subscriptions, being either subsidized or financed by a publication fee. Given the goal of sharing scientific research to speed advances, open access has affected science journals more than humanities journals. [27] Commercial publishers are experimenting with open access models, but are trying to protect their subscription revenues. [28]

The much lower entry cost of on-line publishing has also raised concerns of an increase in publication of "junk" journals with lower publishing standards. These journals, often with names chosen as similar to well-established publications, solicit articles via e-mail and then charge the author to publish an article, often with no sign of actual review. Jeffrey Beall, a research librarian at the University of Colorado, has compiled a list of what he considers to be "potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers"; the list numbered over 300 journals as of April 2013, but he estimates that there may be thousands. [29] The OMICS Publishing Group, which publishes a number of the journals on this list, has threatened to sue Beall. [30]

Some academic journals use the registered report format, which aims to counteract issues such as data dredging and hypothesizing after the results are known. For example, Nature Human Behaviour has adopted the registered report format, as it "shift[s] the emphasis from the results of research to the questions that guide the research and the methods used to answer them". [31] The European Journal of Personality defines this format: "In a registered report, authors create a study proposal that includes theoretical and empirical background, research questions/hypotheses, and pilot data (if available). Upon submission, this proposal will then be reviewed prior to data collection, and if accepted, the paper resulting from this peer-reviewed procedure will be published, regardless of the study outcomes." [32]

Electronic journals

Some journals are born digital , such as the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics , in that they are solely published on the web and in a digital format. Most electronic journals originated as print journals, which subsequently evolved to have an electronic version, while still maintaining a print component, while others eventually become electronic-only.

An e-journal closely resembles a print journal in structure: there is a table of contents which lists the articles, and many electronic journals still use a volume/issue model, although some titles now publish on a continuous basis. Online journal articles are a specialized form of electronic document: they have the purpose of providing material for academic research and study, and they are formatted approximately like journal articles in traditional printed journals. Often a journal article will be available for download in two formats – as a PDF and in HTML format, although other electronic file types are often supported for supplementary material. Articles are indexed in bibliographic databases, as well as by search engines. E-journals allow new types on content to be included in journals, for example video material, or the data sets on which research has been based.

With the growth and development of the Internet, there has been a growth in the number of new journals, especially in those that exist as digital publications only. A subset of these journals exist as Open Access titles, meaning that they are free to access for all, and have Creative Commons licences which permit the reproduction of content in different ways. High quality open access journals are listed in Directory of Open Access Journals. Most continue to exist as subscription journals, for which libraries, organisations and individuals purchase access.


The largest database providing detailed information about journals is Ulrichs Global Serials Directory. Other databases providing detailed information about journals are the Modern Language Association Directory of Periodicals and Genamics JournalSeek. Journal hosting websites like Project MUSE, JSTOR, ScienceDirect, and Informaworld also provide journal lists. Some sites evaluate journals, providing information such as how long a journal takes to review articles and what types of articles it publishes. [note 1]

See also

Explanatory notes

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scientific journal</span> Periodical journal publishing scientific research

In academic publishing, scientific journal is a periodical publication designed to further the progress of science by disseminating new research findings to the scientific community. These journals serve as a platform for researchers, scholars, and scientists to share their latest discoveries, insights, and methodologies across a multitude of scientific disciplines. Unlike professional or trade magazines, scientific journals are characterized by their rigorous peer-review process, which aims to ensure the validity, reliability, and quality of the published content. With origins dating back to the 17th century, the publication of scientific journals has evolved significantly, playing a pivotal role in the advancement of scientific knowledge, fostering academic discourse, and facilitating collaboration within the scientific community.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Preprint</span> Academic paper prior to journal publication

In academic publishing, a preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that precedes formal peer review and publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly or scientific journal. The preprint may be available, often as a non-typeset version available free, before or after a paper is published in a journal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Academic publishing</span> Subfield of publishing distributing academic research and scholarship

Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal articles, books or theses. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted on the Internet is often called "grey literature". Most scientific and scholarly journals, and many academic and scholarly books, though not all, are based on some form of peer review or editorial refereeing to qualify texts for publication. Peer review quality and selectivity standards vary greatly from journal to journal, publisher to publisher, and field to field.

<i>Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy</i> Online philosophy encyclopedia and collection of peer-reviewed papers

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) is a freely available online philosophy resource published and maintained by Stanford University, encompassing both an online encyclopedia of philosophy and peer-reviewed original publication. Each entry is written and maintained by an expert in the field, including professors from many academic institutions worldwide. Authors contributing to the encyclopedia give Stanford University the permission to publish the articles, but retain the copyright to those articles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open access</span> Research publications distributed freely online

Open access (OA) is a set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of access charges or other barriers. With open access strictly defined, or libre open access, barriers to copying or reuse are also reduced or removed by applying an open license for copyright.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scientific literature</span> Literary genre

Scientific literature comprises academic papers that report original empirical and theoretical work in the natural and social sciences. Within a field of research, relevant papers are often referred to as "the literature". Academic publishing is the process of contributing the results of one's research into the literature, which often requires a peer-review process.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Google Scholar</span> Academic search service by Google

Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Released in beta in November 2004, the Google Scholar index includes peer-reviewed online academic journals and books, conference papers, theses and dissertations, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, and other scholarly literature, including court opinions and patents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hindawi (publisher)</span> Scientific and medical journal publisher

Hindawi is a publisher of peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journals currently active in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) literature. It was founded in 1997 in Cairo, Egypt, and purchased in 2021 for $298 million by John Wiley & Sons, a large US-based publishing company.

<i>PLOS One</i> Peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal

PLOS One is a peer-reviewed open access mega journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2006. The journal covers primary research from any discipline within science and medicine. The Public Library of Science began in 2000 with an online petition initiative by Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus, formerly director of the National Institutes of Health and at that time director of Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center; Patrick O. Brown, a biochemist at Stanford University; and Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Scholarly communication involves the creation, publication, dissemination and discovery of academic research, primarily in peer-reviewed journals and books. It is “the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use." This primarily involves the publication of peer-reviewed academic journals, books and conference papers.

Journal ranking is widely used in academic circles in the evaluation of an academic journal's impact and quality. Journal rankings are intended to reflect the place of a journal within its field, the relative difficulty of being published in that journal, and the prestige associated with it. They have been introduced as official research evaluation tools in several countries.

Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP) is a predatory academic publisher of open-access electronic journals, conference proceedings, and scientific anthologies that are considered to be of questionable quality. As of December 2014, it offered 244 English-language open-access journals in the areas of science, technology, business, economy, and medicine.

Scholarly peer review or academic peer review is the process of having a draft version of a researcher's methods and findings reviewed by experts in the same field. Peer review is widely used for helping the academic publisher decide whether the work should be accepted, considered acceptable with revisions, or rejected for official publication in an academic journal, a monograph or in the proceedings of an academic conference. If the identities of authors are not revealed to each other, the procedure is called dual-anonymous peer review.

Academic journal publishing reform is the advocacy for changes in the way academic journals are created and distributed in the age of the Internet and the advent of electronic publishing. Since the rise of the Internet, people have organized campaigns to change the relationships among and between academic authors, their traditional distributors and their readership. Most of the discussion has centered on taking advantage of benefits offered by the Internet's capacity for widespread distribution of reading material.

Frontiers Media SA is a publisher of peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journals currently active in science, technology, and medicine. It was founded in 2007 by Kamila and Henry Markram. Frontiers is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, with other offices in the United Kingdom, Spain, and China. In 2022, Frontiers employed more than 1,400 people, across 14 countries. All Frontiers journals are published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Predatory publishing</span> Fraudulent business model for scientific publications

Predatory publishing, also write-only publishing or deceptive publishing, is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors while only superficially checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not. The rejection rate of predatory journals is low, but seldom zero. The phenomenon of "open access predatory publishers" was first noticed by Jeffrey Beall, when he described "publishers that are ready to publish any article for payment". However, criticisms about the label "predatory" have been raised. A lengthy review of the controversy started by Beall appears in The Journal of Academic Librarianship.

An article processing charge (APC), also known as a publication fee, is a fee which is sometimes charged to authors. Most commonly, it is involved in making an academic work available as open access (OA), in either a full OA journal or in a hybrid journal. This fee may be paid by the author, the author's institution, or their research funder. Sometimes, publication fees are also involved in traditional journals or for paywalled content. Some publishers waive the fee in cases of hardship or geographic location, but this is not a widespread practice. An article processing charge does not guarantee that the author retains copyright to the work, or that it will be made available under a Creative Commons license.

An open-access monograph is a scholarly publication usually made openly available online with an open license. These books are freely accessible to the public, typically via the internet. They are part of the open access movement.

A mega journal is a peer-reviewed academic open access journal designed to be much larger than a traditional journal by exercising low selectivity among accepted articles. It was pioneered by PLOS ONE. This "very lucrative publishing model" was soon emulated by other publishers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of open access</span>

The idea and practise of providing free online access to journal articles began at least a decade before the term "open access" was formally coined. Computer scientists had been self-archiving in anonymous ftp archives since the 1970s and physicists had been self-archiving in arXiv since the 1990s. The Subversive Proposal to generalize the practice was posted in 1994.


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Further reading