Ethical Publishing in Biodiversity Conservation Science

For many researchers, particularly in academia, publishing in peer-reviewed journals is a necessity, with major implications for their career progression. Yet, it is increasingly recognised that the current scientific publishing model is not fair and equitable, which can have severe consequences for the way science is accessed and used in nature conservation. We evaluated the publishing model of 426 conservation science journals against the Fair Open Access (FOA) principles.

Two-thirds of journals, together publishing nearly half of all articles, complied with only two or fewer FOA principles. Only twenty journals (5%), publishing 485 articles per year (<1%), complied with all five principles. We uncovered a weak negative correlation between journal impact factor and the number of FOA principles fulfilled.

Figure 1: Publications fulfilling different Fair Open Access principles. (a) Number of Journals. (b) Number of Articles associated with those Journals

Lastly, we found that Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Springer represented 48% of all journals, but 80% of the 25 journals with the highest impact factor. Our results show that conservation science journals largely fail to meet the FOA standards. Conservation researchers are likely to face obstacles such as limited access to published literature, high publishing charges, and lack of ownership of their research outputs.

Figure 3: Impact Factor Scores. (a) Proportion of journals with an impact factor belonging to the four main academic publishers: Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and Elsevier. (b) Mean Fair Open Access score of journals with different impact factors (as assigned in 2017)

To help authors make more informed decisions we made a database of 400+ journals with each journal ranked according to the Fair Open Access Criteria.