Obituary for an Open Access Journal

International Journal of Structural Changes in Solids

We hardly knew you.

In the wake of the open-access movement, many new open-access journals have been launched. Often these journals have been started by universities, academic libraries, and even individual departments at universities. However, often relying on voluntarism to operate, many of these journals have floundered and died. Here is one example.

The International Journal of Structural Changes in Solids was published by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. It launched in 2009, but it hasn’t published anything since 2013. It is essentially a dead open-access journal.

Here is the evidence supporting the death declaration for this open-access journal:

1. Its last published issue is Volume 5 (2013); there are no “articles in press.”

The editorial board is 404.

The editorial board is 404.

2. The journal’s website does not provide any information about its editorial board, if any. The link to the editorial board page brings up a 404 error.

3. The journal published 43 articles between its 2009 launch and its 2013 death in seven separate issues. An analysis of the number of articles per issue reveals a brief, initial enthusiasm for the journal, followed by a gradual decline to the death of the journal:

Decline and fall.

Decline and fall.

They abandoned the numbering of issues after 2011.

One of the weaknesses of open-access is its reliance on voluntarism, especially in the university context, where people come and go, and projects, such as open-access journals, often die out.

There are scores of open-access journals like this one that have commenced with great enthusiasm, only to die off after the realities of managing a scholarly journal are better understood.

The subscription model incentivizes the ongoing support and maintenance of scholarly journals.

There is some good science published in this journal — it was never a predatory journal. However, now the neglectful maintenance of the journal and its death reflect poorly on the authors’ choice to publish there.

29 Responses to Obituary for an Open Access Journal

  1. Angela Cochran says:

    Interesting. There are many engineering societies that could have helped them. The engineering community are not early adopters of the author pays OA market. The

  2. Ahmad says:

    Here similar one more SPAM Pharmacy journal is missing and the interestingly editor, associate editor and editor member are key contributors to publish their papers in their own journals.
    Look to it
    http://www.ijpir.com/index.html

  3. Good post. I will soon be blogging about an OA publisher, which for a long period was publishing an average of 2 papers per day, but which has now posted a mere handful of papers in the past six months.

  4. Adrian says:

    Here is another example from my alma mater:
    http://www.nume.de/index.php/nume/issue/archive

    It is a legimitate journal as it is published by a university, but it is very poorly done I guess. They published one issue with few articles in 2013 and only one article in 2014 and a kind of weird editorial:
    http://www.nume.de/index.php/nume/article/view/17/11

    This article does not even contain an abstract:
    http://www.nume.de/index.php/nume/article/view/2

    The typesetting is also kind of poor I think, but still they charge 700 Euro for an article…I don’t think that this journal will last long either.

  5. Riaan Stals says:

    Is this blog post commentary on *predatory* open access journals, or is it veiled criticism of open access publication as a whole?

  6. Alex SL says:

    Well, in my experience this is not necessarily a problem limited to open access journals. I have seen in the past sometimes very good papers by very highly regarded authors that appeared in journals I had never heard of before – because they disappeared without a trace two years later. Not every idea bears fruit in the long run, and voluntarist specialist editors at least will always have other demands on their time, be it in subscription or open access.

  7. Low says:

    It’s the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your point of view) of scholarly publishing … scientists generally want to publish in the most prestigious journal that will accept their work. The prestige of a new journal is zero, so it’s not likely to attract good papers, which in turn means it’s going to still have low prestige, and so on, in a terrible vicious cycle. For the same reason the economic moats around journals such as Nature or Physical Review Letters are essentially impenetrable. This isn’t a consequence of the OA model either; subscription journals also have to answer the question, ‘who is going to subscribe to a journal that has few publications?’.

    Which begs another question: if you were in charge of a journal such as this one, how would you keep your journal afloat without sending emails soliciting contributions or asking for special issues? Activities such as these generate a lot of bad press, but if there is an alternative, I’m not aware of it. When an OA publisher sends such emails, it may not be because of “we need more revenue NOW!!!”, but because of “we need more submissions to keep our journals alive”.

  8. Roger Harris says:

    Here is an example of an open-access journal that has neither floundered nor died, but is actually flourishing, The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/index). This is a zero-budget, totally volunteer-run and peer-reviewed journal that is independently ranked a close number 2 in its field. Since its founding in 2000, it has published 450 papers in 66 editions, averaging 4.4 editions per year with 6.8 papers in each.

    Our zero-budget model has served us well. It sits in stark contrast to traditional academic publishing, where researchers are paid nothing for their material and are then charged exorbitant fees to read it. The big three publishers that dominate the industry consistently enjoy profit margins of 30-40%. They charge astronomic subscriptions for the top journals that put them out of reach of pretty much every university in the developing world.

    Little wonder that there are concerned academics that have had enough – with the growing boycott of Elsevier journals. Around 15,000 academics have so far signed up to an online pledge not to publish or do any editorial work for the company’s journals, including refereeing papers (see http://thecostofknowledge.com/).

  9. Bill Williams says:

    Clicking on the above link doesn’t work.
    Webpage is http://thecostofknowledge.com/

    • Neither on this one, it redirects somewhere else. It looks intentional. Copy/paste the URL.

      • bill says:

        It does indeed look intentional. When I posted the link yesterday it was going to the correct site but it now points to an apparent right-wing webpage. So that’s three times the cost of knowledge link posted here been diverted elsewhere. Strange!

      • As a computer scientist I find it highly suspicious that the link to web of knowledge would be mistyped three times. Yes, once can happen, when your copy-to-clipboard function was misbehaving. That happens. But three times? It looks like a WordPress injection of malware that is overwriting the links themselves. There is an external link plugin that automatically sets up links on URLs entered in text, and this was hacked last year. As I test I will put in two links here, one is an innocuous one to the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) and the other one to the Cost of Knowledge (http://thecostofknowledge.com/). I have checked that the URL for Cost of Knowledge is correct. If either or both of these change to redirect somewhere else, I suggest that Jeffrey investigate the installation of WordPress.

      • The mis-directed links were a small prank done, perhaps unwisely, by the blogger.

      • Riaan Stals says:

        Well done. The joke is on us.

    • billwilliams says:

      Tsk, tsk!
      Still, it shows readers were alert, I guess.

  10. Ken Lanfear says:

    The sad thing about this “dead” journal is I couldn’t find any information about where the articles may be archived. Yes, they are on the apparently unmaintained website. But, how long can we count on them being there? At some point a webmaster is likely to delete the old pages. It seems rather unprofessional for whoever’s in charge to just let this happen.

    I tried Google Scholar, and it pointed me right back to the journal, not to some permanent archive.

  11. Marco says:

    The Internet Journal of Vibrational Spectroscopy survived only 6 volumes:
    http://www.ijvs.com/archive.html
    Published by John Wiley & Sons.

  12. Alope Rapone says:

    i was going through the DOAJ team (http://doaj.org/about). it was surprising to find that except for Managing Director and Tom Olijhoek who is PhD in mol bio, rest are of the team members are 1) B.A. in English, Bulgarian and Russian, 2) worked as account and project manager, 3) Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Cultural Sciences. how are people with such non-scientific background qualified to judge scientific journals and recommend inclusion in DOAJ, considering that many journals are highly technical and from specialized fields?

    • Nils says:

      Good point. I know of a couple of very successful green OA journals in my field. These however are managed by teams of highly respected academics, with support by scientific societies, not by entrepreneurs or would-be academics.

  13. mkoulikov says:

    One of the weaknesses of open-access is its reliance on voluntarism, especially in the university context, where people come and go, and projects, such as open-access journals, often die out.

    With this in mind, it’s worth considering other cases, where an open access journal thrives precisely because it’s a project/product of an organization with a strong voluntarist ethic. One example that I can highlight right away is Transformative Works and Cultures, published by the Organization for Transformative Works – with 17 volumes published since 2008.

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