University of Oregon

High-impact open access journals

Librarians are sometimes asked to identify high-impact open access journals.  That’s a hard question, in part because there’s not much consensus about how to measure journal impact.  But we’ll try in this and some following posts.

One approach is to look at statistics that measure the average number of citations that have occurred to articles published in the journal, though there are lots of variants on that general theme.

OA ranking using Scopus and SJR

One site that ranks journals is SCImago, which uses citation data from SCIverse Scopus (an Elsevier database).

If we look just at open access journals (which for convenience I’ll define as journals that appear in the Directory of Open Access Journals), then we find that there are about 7300 open access journals.  By comparison, Ulrich’s lists about 65,000 peer reviewed scholarly journals of any kind, so about 10% of all journals appear to be open access.  A small subset of these journals have been indexed with all of their citations noted.  For instance, SCIverse indexes about 18,000 journals, mostly in the sciences and engineering, but doesn’t keep track of whether particular journals are open access.  For these 18,000 journals, SCImago computes something they call “SCImago Journal Rankings” (SJRs) based on the number of times citations to the journal have appeared in other indexed journals.

If we combine the two sources of information (OA status from DOAJ, and SJR from SCImago), we find that about 2000 of those 18,000 journals are open access, and hence have SJR numbers.  I’m attaching a table listing the  50 open access journals with the highest SJR values as of 1 March 2012.  Some observations

  1. The highest ranked journal (Cancer Journal for Clinicians) has an SJR value of 9.895 and a Journal Impact Factor of 94.333.  According to SCImago, it is the 4th most heavily cited journal among ALL journals indexed.  With 62 citations per article based on SCImago calculations, its articles on average appear to be the most highly cited of any scholarly journal of any kind.
  2. The vast majority of highly ranked OA journals are in biomedicine, though there are a few exceptions (Optics Express, PLoS One, New Journal of Physics).
  3. Looking at the whole sample of 2014, the vast majority of titles are still in STEM disciplines, presumably because  Sciverse mostly indexes science journals.  So using this data might be useful to identify high-impact journals in Chemistry, but not in Political Science.
Title ISSN SJR rank SJR
Cancer Journal for Clinicians 1542-4863 4 9.895
Molecular Systems Biology 1744-4292 70 2.349
MMWR Recommendations and Reports 1545-8601 80 2.031
Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 1662-5102 84 1.974
Optics Express 1094-4087 86 1.956
. . .

Ranking based on Article Impact

SJR is only one of many citation-based metrics. has computed a similar metric, Article Impact, based on citation data from ISI Web of Science.  The list of highest-impact OA journals overlaps but is somewhat different.

More Information

Resources downloadable from my website:

  • Tables of the 50 highest ranked OA journals, ranked by SJR and by Article Impact.
  • A spreadsheet containing all 2014 OA journals rated by SCImago, with additional information such as the subject area of the journal.
  • A spreadsheet containing 625 journals rated by

I’ll follow up with other ways to identify high-impact journals in other posts.

8 responses to “High-impact open access journals”

  1. My estimate of active, scholarly peer-reviewed journals based on Ulrich’s is just over 26,000. The calculations are a bit tricky as you need to deduplicate, i.e. in Ulrich’s print and electronic journal forms of the same journal are two records. Details can be found in this appendix of my draft thesis:

  2. Using Heather’s methodology today, I am seeing 27,397 active, academic, refereed journals (23,921 print + 3,476 e-only). Of these, 6709 are called open access by Ulrich’s. Of these, 4208 are available online (and 1845 are e-only). These numbers give a somewhat higher percentage of journals that are OA.

  3. Open Access is the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.

    Open Access is also increasingly being provided to theses, scholarly monographs and book chapters.

    Open Access comes in two degrees: Gratis Open Access is no-cost online access, while Libre Open Access is Gratis Open Access

    plus some additional usage rights.

    Open content is similar to Open Acces, but usually includes the right to modify the work, where as in scholarly publishing it is

    usual to keep an article’s content intact and to associate it with a fixed author or fixed group of authors. Creative Commons

    licenses can be used to specify usage rights. The Open Access idea can also be extended to the learning objects and resources

    provided in e-learning.

    OMICS Group Inc. is one of the Open aceess publisher which provides journals in the form of Open Access.

  4. Hi, thanks for very interesting analysis. Two remarks:
    (1) can you provide the doaj-scimago.xlsx file also in CSV, as openoffice and gdocs have problems handling that large spreadsheet;
    (2) the last 2 comments – “open access …” – seem to be spam by one of predatory OA publishers, I think you’d like to remove them.


  5. I am trying to access the three documents cited in your original post of 3-2-2012 – with citation statistics for OA journals. The links do not work. We are preparing a presentation for faculty tomorrow, and it would be so helpful to have access to these documents. Can you email them to me or give me URL’s that work? Thanks, Bev Allen, Colorado State University-Pueblo Library

  6. I second Marcin, these .xlsx files are a bit pesky to work with. An open format would be useful like CSV or ODF.

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