Have you heard of mega-journals? They are open-access peer-reviewed journals that publish a large number of articles and charge fees for article processing. In the biomedical field, these mega-journals are growing rapidly. In 2015, only 11 Scopus-indexed journals published more than 2000 biomedical full papers, but in 2022, there were 55 such journals publishing over 300,000 articles. While these mega-journals maintain respectable impact factors that attract authors seeking to publish their work, they may perpetuate a dysfunctional system of scientific evaluation and publication. However, some characteristics of these journals align with desirable scientific practices. For instance, they may offer opportunities to curb publication bias and allow the publication of results that traditional specialty journals may deem undesirable. They may also change medical and scientific publishing at large through indirect effects on other journals, creating competition at the journal and publisher levels.
To maximize the benefits of mega-journals, it is crucial that they adopt transparent research practices, publish rigorous data, safeguard against conflicts of interest, and secure editorial independence. It’s also essential for scientists, medical and research institutions, and funders to give credit to and reward journals and publishers that promote more transparent and rigorous research practices. Additionally, empirical studies are needed to compare the rigor of the peer-review process by traditional journals vs mega-journals. While the explosive growth of mega-journals may lead to the decline of some previously prestigious journals, what matters is whether journals that publish the majority of literature endorse and facilitate the best research practices.
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