May 24, 2022

Research Article: “Open-Access Mega-Journals: The Future of Scholarly Communication or Academic Dumping Ground? A Review”

The following article (open access version) is available via the White Rose Research Online repository. The article is also published in the Journal of Documentation


Open-Access Mega-Journals: The Future of Scholarly Communication or Academic Dumping Ground? A Review


Valerie Spezi
Loughborough University

Simon Wakeling
University of Sheffield

Stephen Pinfield
University of Sheffield

Claire Creaser
Loughborough University

Jenny Fry
Loughborough University

Peter Willett
University of Sheffield


Published Version in:
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 73 Iss 2 (2017)

Version Linked in this Post: via White Rose Research Online


Purpose: Open-access mega-journals (OAMJs) represent an increasingly important part of the scholarly communication landscape. OAMJs, such as PLOS ONE, are large scale, broad scope journals that operate an open access business model (normally based on article-processing charges), and which employ a novel form of peer review, focusing on scientific ‘soundness’ and eschewing judgment of novelty or importance. This paper examines the discourses relating to OAMJs, and their place within scholarly publishing, and considers attitudes towards mega-journals within the academic community.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents a review of the literature of OAMJs structured around four defining characteristics: scale, disciplinary scope, peer review policy and economic model. The existing scholarly literature was augmented by searches of more informal outputs, such as blogs and email discussion lists, to capture the debate in its entirety.

Findings: While the academic literature relating specifically to OAMJs is relatively sparse, discussion in other fora is detailed and animated, with debates ranging from the sustainability and ethics of the mega-journal model, to the impact of soundness-only peer review on article quality and discoverability, and the potential for OAMJs to represent a paradigm-shifting development in scholarly publishing.

Originality/value: This article represents the first comprehensive review of the mega-journal phenomenon, drawing not only on the published academic literature, but also grey, professional and informal sources. The paper advances a number of ways in which the role of OAMJs in the scholarly communication environment can be conceptualised.

Direct to Full Text Article (22 pages;PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.