Do we need OA megajournals in humanities & social sciences?

I can’t answer that question, of course. I can offer some factual input.

I’ve now looked at all of the journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (as of May 2014) that have enough English in their interface for me to be able to (a) determine whether the journal charges article processing fees (or submission fees or whatever) and, if so, how much those fees amount to, (b) determine that they are in fact publishing refereed scholarly articles and (c) determine how many such articles they’ve published in 2011, 2012, 2013 and the first half of 2014.

That caveat is because somewhere north of 2,000 journals in DOAJ either didn’t have English or Eng as one of the languages in their DOAJ record or, when I went there, did not have enough English for me to be able to do those things. So I’ve only looked at 7,301 DOAJ journals (plus another 6,949 “Beall journals”–most of them not actually journals–that weren’t in DOAJ at that point and another 401 OASPA-member journals that weren’t in DOAJ, in many cases because they’d ceased publishing).

Within those 7,301 journals, here’s, briefly, what I found for humanities & social sciences, omitting the few journals with unknown/unstated APCs–there are a dozen such journals in this group):

Humanities alone

(OK, so my definition of humanities may not be the same as yours, but set that aside…)

  • Journals with APCs that published some articles between 2011 and June 30, 2014: 38 journals, publishing around 1,750 articles in the first half of 2014, around 3,200 in 2013, around 2,800 in 2012 and around 2,150 in 2011. (Median APC: $300.)
  • Journals with no APCs–free on both sides–that published some articles between 2011 and June 30, 2014: 745 journals, publishing around 5,850 articles in the first half of 2014, around 12,700 in 2013, around 12,850 in 2012, and around 11,400 in 2011.
  • That adds up to around 15,900 articles in 2013 and around 15,600 in 2012; the 2014 numbers may be slightly lower, but a lot of these journals only post issues once a year, so it’s too early to say.

Humanities and social sciences (which includes all of the above)

  • Journals with APCs (as above): 270 journals, publishing around 8,200 articles in the first half of 2014, around 14,500 in 2013, around 13,500 in 2012 and around 10,200 in 2011. (Median APC $203.)
  • Journals without APCs (free on both sides): 1,930 journals, publishing around 16,100 articles in the first half of 2014, around 37,700 in 2013 and the same in 2012; around 33,650 in 2011.
  • That adds up to around 52,000 articles in 2013 and around 51,200 in 2012.

So I guess the question is: are there tens of thousands of worthwhile articles out there that aren’t getting published because there aren’t enough good OA journals in HSS? Note that the average no-fee humanities journal only publishes about 17 articles a year; if each one added four more articles–probably not an overwhelming addition to the presumably-volunteer editors’ workloads–that would take care of another 3,000-odd articles.

I’m not part of the academy or The Academy. I don’t know what’s actually needed. I am a little suspicious of grand schemes…but that’s just me.

If you’re wondering: I will have a some summary figures and notes on the completion of this absurdly large investigation in the March 2015 Cites & Insights, out some time in February 2015; a thoughtful, edited, complete, coherent view (with advice for librarians) will appear in the summer from a publisher I regard as highly reputable, but it will carry a price.

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