What Is a Megajournal?

  • The term ‘megajournal’ is used in discussion of scholarly publishing, but what are the criteria for defining one?
  • These journals publish a broad variety of research without judging the perceived importance, just soundness.
  • Famous megajournals include PLOS ONE, Scientific Reports, and PeerJ

The term megajournal is thrown around in discussion of scholarly publishing, largely to refer to journals that meet the following criteria (as adapted from an excellent description by PeerJ co-founder and former PLOS ONE publisher Pete Binfield):

  1. Editorial criteria that judge articles only on scientific soundness, not perceived importance or impact (or as the inimitable Mike Taylor puts it, "review only for soundness, not for sexiness")
  2. A very broad subject scope (for example, all genetics fields, all social sciences, or even all science and medical fields)
  3. An open access model, often involving article processing charges
  4. A large editorial board of academic editors (as opposed to a staff of professional editors)
  5. An elastic capacity to publish any and all articles that are appropriate (hat tip, Todd Vision).

Undoubtedly, there is still much to discuss when it comes to classifying megajournals. (What makes them specifically mega anyway?) However, these journals represent a shift from the traditional subscription-based, highly specialized journal. With the considerable amount of time that it takes to get published, authors clearly benefit from a review process that focuses only on scientific rigor, not suitability for a journal’s narrow focus.

This magnitude represents perhaps the largest shift from the traditional publishing model: seeing that an article has been published in PLOS ONE does not give you any information about its specific focus or general level of interest. Where the journal name once provided key information about an article, the day of PubMed and Google Scholar has changed how researchers find new information. Now, with articles that match your research interests popping directly into your inbox or Twitter timeline, is there such a need for tens of thousands of individual journals?

With a hazy definition in place, where can you find a megajournal? PLOS ONE, by most accounts, is still considered the original megajournal, but many other publishers have started similar journals. Below, we’ve listed some examples of megajournals, with sincerest thanks to Pete Binfield and Anna Sharman. This list is certainly not exclusive; if you’d like to propose an addition, please write us at [email protected].

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