Comparing the results from two surveys of BMJ Open authors


BMJ Open authors were among those surveyed by Professor David J Solomon of Michigan State University for a study recently published in the journal PeerJ.

Needless to say we read this with great interest (we were unaware of the survey until the results were published). The survey reported a generally positive response to BMJ Open specifically and open access megajournals in general. The low response rates mean that many of the specific results should be interpreted with caution, though.

The response rate from BMJ Open authors was the lowest in the Solomon study (187/728 respondents; 26%). A possible explanation for this is that we were surveying the same people (authors published in 2013) at what seems to have been around the same time, asking some similar questions. BMJ journals regularly survey authors, readers and reviewers to help us stay in touch with the research community. There were some notable similarities in results and some major differences.

We achieved a 47% response rate (401/849) and thought it might be of interest to summarise our results which were roughly comparable with Professor Solomon’s.

Like Professor Solomon we surveyed our authors about the most important factors behind their decision to submit to BMJ Open. We offered 12 options from which authors could choose three. There was no ranking of these three choices.

The three most important reasons for submitting to BMJ Open in Solomon’s survey were

  • the quality of the journal (28%)
  • reputation of the publisher (18%)
  • the impact factor (IF) (13.5).

In our survey, impact factor was much less important. The three most selected options were

  • open access (59%)
  • BMJ Group branded journal (50%)
  • speed of review (37%).

Reputation of the journal (34%) was the fourth most selected in our survey (the most comparable option we had to Solomon’s ‘quality of the journal’). Impact factor was only the ninth most important reason given (13%). The most popular option in our survey without a rough equivalent in Solomon’s was ‘ease of transfer from another BMJ journal’, selected by 29% of respondents as one of their three most important reasons for submitting.

Although open access was the most-selected reason for submitting to BMJ Open in our survey, 84% of respondents believed publishing in an open access journal was not a requirement of their funder or their institution.

66% of our respondents said BMJ Open was not their first choice for submission, similar to the 68% in Solomon’s paper. The broad scope of the journal was a 35% said they used institutional funds to pay the publishing charge followed by 29% who said they used a direct grant. The number who received a waiver (9%) in our survey was roughly similar to those in Prof. Solomon’s survey (11.4%); the actual figure for 2013 was around 10%.

Further comments
BMJ Open’s IF was announced in July 2013. Many of the authors surveyed may have submitted to and/or published in the journal before it was announced. This may make the answers that relate to its importance when submitting less reliable (in both surveys). Alternatively there may be a balance between authors who didn’t care that no IF had been announced and those that would not have submitted if the journal didn’t have one.

Though omitted as an option from the Solomon survey BMJ also has institutional membership schemes that cover APCs and you can read more about them here.

With regard to publishing preliminary findings, BMJ Open publishes research protocols as well as results papers. So some of the authors surveyed would not have been publishing any research findings in BMJ Open.

It was nice to see that Professor Solomon opted to make the peer review comments open. We use open review and are glad to see more journals bringing transparency into the review process.

We’ll gloss over BMJ Open being referred to as BMC Open. Twice …


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