The process of publishing scientific, technical and medical (STM) articles has changed completely over the past few years, driven by new methods of digital content distribution. Reactions to this have been varied, but the one thing academics likely agree on is that things can't go back to the way they were. Whether e-journals spin out of print publications or stand on their own, the speed and flexibility of distribution and the peer review process have irrevocably shifted. Each publisher and researcher will find a unique take on the new state of the market, and the best among them will emerge from the change stronger and more effective.
"It's natural for industry insiders to wonder about distributing information at no cost to readers."
New forms of access
Open access is one of the concepts intrinsically tied to the modern age of scholarly journal publishing. When printing and distribution are removed from the paradigm, it's natural for industry insiders to wonder about distributing information at no cost to readers. How has this process gone over with members of the industry?
According to a recent Nature Publishing Group survey, attitudes are still in transition, with a greater acceptance of the open-access model coming to the field. The source explained that while there are still concerns about whether open-access journals are of high quality - due to the relative ease of publishing them - the number of academics comfortable with the format has grown. NPG asked scientists who had not published an open-access article for three or more years whether they had concerns about perceived quality of those publications. In 2014, 40 percent admitted they did, but this year only 27 percent said the same.
In the current era, new publication styles have changed perceptions around academic publishing in several ways. The NPG survey sought updated information about how scholars assess journals that might host their work. Respondents listed reputation, relevance, peer review quality and "Impact Factor" as the top four determinants. Publications that excel in these areas should have no shortage of submissions.
"The market is reacting to open access becoming a common feature."
NPG and Palgrave Macmillan Head of Insights Dan Penny stated that the market is reacting to open access becoming a common feature. He noted that funders' mandates could have an effect on whether information is published via open access or more traditional models, and the former is set to gain ground. Penny also spoke from his own experience at NPG, which had great success with its own Nature Communications, a popular open-access publication in its field.
The digital revolution
With digital journals becoming standard and open access allowing researchers to view to work of all kinds, it may be important for scholars and publishers alike to explore what other traits they can apply to their work as they switch to an online-first model. There is no need for these scientists to stay within the same parameters that limited them when they published on paper. Interactive STM journals allow researchers to work with figures and inspect data closely, rather than copying static numbers off a page. Vital steps such as peer review can become easier and quicker with features such as these, which have accompanied the tech shift in STM publishing.