The launch of PLOS One in 2006 established a new era in academic publishing. Recognized as the first online mega journal, PLOS One pioneered the field of large, open-access, multi-disciplinary, online journals. At its peak in 2013, PLOS One was the largest journal in the world and published more than 30,000 manuscripts in a single year.
While it has been noted that the total number of manuscripts being published in mega journals is on the decline, the number of manuscripts itself is perhaps not the best indicator of the performance of these journals. To examine the quality of mega journals, the authors of a manuscript published in Scientometrics investigated the citations that appear in mega journals and how mega journals themselves are cited by other journals.
Specifically, the researchers examined how often papers published in 11 mega journals were cited in three prestigious journals: Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Science. Regarding the mega journals, they found that the frequency of citations in the prestigious journals fell significantly between 2008 and 2016. This finding suggests that mega journals have slipped from a position close to the leading edge of science.
It remains to be seen whether the total number of articles published in mega journals will continue to fall and whether the decrease in citations by prestigious journals will eventually lead to the disappearance of any existing mega journals. However, it is important to note how quickly these journals grew in their early history and the impact they had on traditional publishers.
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