Publishing open access in neuroscience

I would like to issue a call to action. Neuroscientists, it’s time to be open. Really, this is ridiculous. While fields like physics are making great strides in open access, we in neuroscience are locking away more research in subscription journals everyday, where many people around the world can’t access it, learn from it, or build on it. It’s just wrong. Period. So, take those manuscripts that are ready for prime time and submit them to open access (BOAI-compliant) journals today. It’s that simple.

And one more thing, IGNORE impact factor. Yes, I said ignore it. Impact factors say nothing about the quality of the published science, and actually correlate highly with retraction rate. See this great post by Stephen Curry on why IFs should be scrapped. It is unfortunate that many in neuroscience still believe it’s necessary to publish in high-profile subscription journals like Neuron and Nature Neuroscience. (And unfortunate as well that many members of hiring and tenure committees think the same.) If you’re one of those people, you probably won’t be reading my blog for much longer. But before you go, I’d encourage you to read this piece by Michael Eisen on why you should consider changing your perspective.

I want to believe that there are many neuroscientists out there who would like to support open access, but just aren’t sure where to submit their work. So, I’ve compiled a list of open access neuroscience journals. I’ve divided these up into three categories: (1) open access journals devoted to neuroscience, (2) open access journals which are not devoted exclusively to neuroscience, but publish research articles in the area as part of a broader portfolio, and (3) hybrid journals devoted to neuroscience which are subscription-based but offer an open access option. I have excluded journals from publishers such as Wiley or the Society for Neuroscience, which offer what they call an open access option, but under conditions which are not BOAI-compliant (see update 10/27/2012 below). I have also excluded Elsevier journals for two main reasons. First, I am one of over 12K researchers who have signed The Cost of Knowledge boycott refusing to publish, review, and/or do editing work for any Elsevier journal. The reasons for the boycott are explained in detail here. Second, unlike publishers such as Springer who clearly outline their open access policies and licenses, Elsevier has been reluctant to be so open (pun definitely intended). For more discussion of this, see posts by Mike Taylor over at SV-POW! (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).  Finally, I have excluded journals from suspected ‘predatory’ publishers. You can refer to the table below, or download the full spreadsheet OANeuroscienceJournals in one of three available file formats on figshare (see update 10/27/2012 below).

CATEGORY 1        
Journal title Publisher License APC (USD) Waivers
ASN Neuro American Society for Neurochemistry CC-BY-NC $1,200-$1,750 not specified
Behavioral and Brain Functions BioMed Central CC-BY $2,010 yes
BMC Neuroscience BioMed Central CC-BY $1,980 yes
Brain and Behavior Wiley CC-BY $2,000-$2,500 yes
Frontiers in Neuroscience* Frontiers CC-BY $753-$2,621 yes
Journal of Mathematical Neuroscience Springer CC-BY $1,295 yes
Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders BioMed Central CC-BY $2,245 yes
Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation BioMed Central CC-BY $1,730 yes
Journal of Neuroinflammation BioMed Central CC-BY $2,040 yes
Molecular Brain BioMed Central CC-BY $1,730 yes
Molecular Neurodegeneration BioMed Central CC-BY $2,170 yes
Neural Development BioMed Central CC-BY $2,085 yes
Neuroglia BioMed Central CC-BY $1,730 yes
Translational Neurodegeneration BioMed Central CC-BY none N/A
Journal title Publisher License APC (USD) Waivers
BMC Research Notes BioMed Central CC-BY $1,085 yes
eLife eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. CC-BY none N/A
F1000 Research Faculty of 1000 CC-BY $500-$1,000 yes
PLoS Biology Public Library of Science CC-BY $0-$2,900 yes
PLoS Computational Biology Public Library of Science CC-BY $0-$2,250 yes
PLoS ONE Public Library of Science CC-BY $0-$1,350 yes
Springer Plus Springer CC-BY $1,100 yes
Journal title Publisher License APC (USD) Waivers
Brain Oxford University Press CC-BY-NC $0-$3,000 yes
Cerebral Cortex Oxford University Press CC-BY-NC $0-$3,000 yes
Journal of Computational Neuroscience Springer CC-BY $3,000 no
Journal of Molecular Neuroscience Springer CC-BY $3,000 no
Neural Processing Letters Springer CC-BY $3,000 no
Neurochemical Research Springer CC-BY $3,000 no
Neurogenetics Springer CC-BY $3,000 no
Translational Neuroscience Springer CC-BY $3,000 no

*Note: Frontiers in Neuroscience is made up of several specialty sections and journals. For a full list see here. The range in Article Processing Charges (APCs) is due to either membership versus non-membership fees (ASN Neuro), article type (Frontiers), or country of submitting authors (PLoS, Oxford University Press). Most journals listed here offer partial or complete waivers if authors are unable to pay. Also, some publishers (e.g. BMC) have deals in place such that member universities pay APCs on behalf of authors working for their institution.

The above is not an exhaustive list, so please let me know of any journals that should be added. I’d also love to hear from anyone who has submitted to any of the journals above. Why did you decide to submit to that journal? What was the submission and review process like? Pros, cons? What has been your experience with open access versus subscription journals?

Bottom line: At least now you can’t use the excuse that you don’t know where to publish your research. You have a lot of options. You can work in neuroscience and be open.

Update 10/27/2012: I have added Wiley’s journal Brain and Behavior, which publishes articles under a CC-BY license. However, I have still left off Wiley’s subscription-based journals because their OnlineOpen option does not specify a license, and the terms and conditions are not BOAI-compliant. I should also note that the list above contains three journals that use the CC-BY-NC license, which is not fully BOAI-compliant because of the non-commercial clause that puts some restrictions on reuse. However, I have included these journals because this is still a fairly open license and only one step down from CC-BY on the scale of “How Open Is It?”. The full spreadsheet was previously available for download on this blog, but I have moved it to figshare because this is a more permanent location in which to store it, allows for wider dissemination, and permits better version control than my blog.) Finally, thanks to suggestions by two readers (see comments), I have added the journals BMC Research Notes, and F1000 Research to Category 2. The spreadsheet posted on figshare will be updated to reflect these changes, and will continue to be updated as needed with additional journals.

21 thoughts on “Publishing open access in neuroscience

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  1. Wow, great list! I’m not a neuroscientist myself, but I’m interested in Open Access and one thing draws my attention: 90% of these journals belong to only 3 leading publishers: Springer, BMC, PLOS; or actually 2, because BMC belongs to Springer, too. I’m wondering if the field of neuroscience is so much concentrated, or maybe it’s just hard to track other journals, owned by smaller publishers?

  2. Thanks! Yes, I was struck by that, too. It’s true that it’s harder to track down journals from smaller publishers. It’s possible I missed some good journals, and I’m hoping that by opening up the discussion here we can find some of those and add them to the list. However, I did do a lot of searching for smaller, less well-known journals and most I found came from possible predatory publishers. I also have a few candidate journals from Hindawi that I did not add to the list, as they looked suspect to me. (I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has experience with that publisher.) Finally, I was selective in only listing journals that have clearly-stated BOAI-compliant open access policies. That eliminated a few big publishers right off the bat. So, in part, it was my search criteria that resulted in a list restricted to very few publishers. But I think it’s also true that neuroscience research tends to be concentrated in just a few major journals. In fact, for the purposes of hiring and tenure committees, it is unfortunately often reduced to just three journals in which you must have publications to be competitive: (1) Journal of Neuroscience, (2) Neuron, and (3) Nature Neuroscience. None of those journals have BOAI-compliant open access policies. I hope that as people start to discover their open access publishing options, we can move the emphasis away from those subscription-based journals.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion. First, in the interest of transparency, I think it bears mentioning for other readers that you are the editor of Neurostrategy. Second, this list is reserved for academic journals that publish peer-reviewed original research. As far as I can tell, Neurostrategy does not publish peer-reviewed research articles, and is more a forum for sharing news and opinion pieces in the field.

  3. Nice post! I think there’s no doubt that open access is the future of science. As you said the IF should not be the criterion to judge quality but in the same time is one of the criterion used for promotion, recruitment and tenure-track. Young neuroscientists are not strong enough to face this enormous problem which often become a vicious cycle. Few want to take the risk and many want to follow the others like sheep. It could be nice to have the opinion some neuroscientists who are responsible for science career and recruitment. Let’s hope in a cultural revokution !

    1. Thanks! I agree. To really change the current system and the hold that IFs have over many fields, we need people at the top to speak out. We need those who are sitting on hiring and tenure committees to refuse to use IF as a way of judging the quality of a candidate’s research. I certainly hope that change comes soon. I also realize that until this change comes, it will be difficult and risky for young investigators to fight against this norm. But not impossible. I am a young investigator; I have few publications, no independent federal funding, and no tenure track position. Yes, it’s true that it is risky for me having decided that I will not publish in Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron or Nature Neuroscience because of their closed access policies. However, the way I see it is if this decision costs me my career in neuroscience, then it is not a field I want to be in and I would be much better off doing something else. I don’t necessarily want to pressure young investigators to take this same position, but I hope some do. Change has to come from both ends.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely add BMC Research Notes to the list. I hope to post an updated list soon incorporating this and other suggested journals. (PS: Thanks also for disclosing your COI. I, and I’m sure other readers, appreciate the openness.)

  4. You should know about Journal of Vision [ ], which was a pioneer in on-line, open access publishing over 10 years ago, with (sometimes wavering) support from a major scholarly society (Assoc for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. It now has an execllent impact factor, if you care.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion! However, after reading Journal of Vision’s Terms and Conditions, I think it’s important to point out that this journal is, by it’s own admission, a “free access” journal. All articles are freely accessible online, which is great, but its policies are not consistent with true open access (i.e. BOAI-compliant). All authors are required to transfer their copyright to the publisher. Admittedly, their policies are better than many journals who ask for copyright transfer in that they allow authors to reuse their own figures, text, etc. without permission or fees, but non-authors are still required to request permission and charged fees for reuse. So, as great as it is that this journal does not charge readers to access their content, many of their policies will need to change before they should be considered an open access journal.

  5. Hi!
    You probably know this directory already, but in case you don’t where they catalog open source journals (for them open source means journals that do not charge readers or their institutions). Also, I created a link to this page on my page, hope this is alright!

  6. Hi Erin,
    thank you for your post, I agree 100% with you and I will follow your advice, in despise of my career. Your post is 2 years old and I have the impression that nothing changed… but I think things are improving since main institutions like European Commission, impose an open-free access to research funded by public grants. The system needs a change, we are paying twice our research publications!. When you think about it is crazy: we have to pay to publish (with public funds) and then pay to read it (again with public funds!!!).
    Anyways, it would be great to update this list in a future. Thanks again.

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