Open Access Publishing

Recently I’ve participated in a survey on publishing in neuroscience and it was all about publishing in Open access journals. I don’t think I was of much help, as I never published any paper on these journals. But it made me think about why this happened. My first papers were published on wherever my advisor wanted to submit them, as I really didn’t know exactly what that meant and just wanted to have a publication! But later on… what happened?

When you decide where to submit your work first of all comes your area of research AND the status of the journal. My area of research doesn’t have high impact factor journals, and most of the top researchers publish their results in one specific journal (X, IF around 5). Of course, if there is some ephys involved they publish in Journal of Neuroscience, but that’s not usual. So as a graduate student I “grew up” reading papers from that  X journal and dreaming that one day they would accept a publication of mine. Time passed and now I have 3 papers published there. So now it became a matter of being used to submit my papers to this X journal first. It’s just a matter of habit! I also realized that I don’t know ANY journal specific to my area that are open access.  So I googled open access journals + my specific area of research. Found one, yay! Never heard about it, tried to see the IF of that journal. Tried by title, by ISSN.

***** No matching journals were found. *****

Really? Ok, so I guess this is not a good journal to try to publish. But really? Of course IF matters and every scientist wants to publish at Nature, Science, and beyond. But when it comes to more realistic IFs does it really matter? When it comes to pubmed, everybody will find your research no matter where you publish. Quoting Damian Pattinson, the editorial director of PLoS ONE in a recent blog post “it’s a good time to remember that it is the papers, not the journals they´re published in, that make the impact.” PLoS ONE has a pretty good IF, so should I care about being specific to my area of research?

On the other hand, I receive TOCs from all the specific journals to my field, knowing exactly what’s been published out there. My field is not that big, and I know most of the big guys from the field. Sometimes someone publishes a paper in a totally different journal that takes me a while to find out. That is one of the things that make me skeptical about publishing in somewhere other than the usual journals.  What’s your opinion about this? Should we alternate between specific journals and open access journals? If so, how which criteria would you use to choose what to publish on each one of them?