The University of California has been out of contract with Elsevier this year following disputes on higher costs and reduced rights to a number of journals.

My lab has published numerous papers in various Elsevier journals, many of which are highly considered in their respective fields, but my principal investigator has opted for other journals following the breakdown of the contract. I am a proponent of open-access, but I am wondering whether journal access has influenced your decision to publish in specific journals. I am also interested in the rationales for continuing to publish in closed access journals vs. other journals.

I could see the number of citations and h-indices being factors that heavily influence the decision.

  • 4
    In Germany there are similar issues with Elsevier. I and also other researchers I know tend to look for alternatives now. One thing is that we want to be able to access our own papers and the other thing that we do not want to support Elsevier due to the difficulties encountered when trying to find an agreement with them. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:44
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    Hmm. Folk are voting to close as "primarily opinion-based", and that is true, but many good questions on this site are opinion-based; we naturally tend to get more of that than sites such as Stackoverflow or Engineering where there is a Right Answer. I urge some restraint in close-voting.
    – Flyto
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 20:52
  • Is your lab a part of the University of California? The answer to this question significantly changes the situation and might even change the question ("does journal X being less available in general influence your choice of journal" vs "does journal X being unavailable to your lab influence your choice of journal")
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:26
  • If you care about getting a job in industry at any point, then you should publish in a way that a person in industry can read your work.
    – Ian
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:50

5 Answers 5


I've asked many professors why they submit to journal X instead of journal Y. Reasons given include:

  • Geographic location (e.g. British astronomers are more likely to submit to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society simply because that's a British journal)
  • Impact factor
  • Scope (certain journals are more theoretical than others, certain topics are just historically published in certain journals, etc)
  • Habit / familiarity (if I am familiar with a journal's style, publishing there saves time)
  • Personal knowledge of the editors
  • Open access (although the professors I spoke to were not concerned about whether their paper would be OA; they were more concerned about publishing in subscription journals, just so they wouldn't have to figure out the open access APC)

Journal access is never cited.

As for why publish open access vs. closed access, see: Why do tenured professors still publish in pay-walled venues?

  • Great points. I also believe these are the main points that I would personally consider when deciding on a journal to submit to. I am not sure why my professor has opted to publish in another journal upon learning about the access restriction even though he was initially enthusiastic about submitting our manuscript, which I had formatted already, to an Elsevier journal. Nice to get a sense of what the rest of the academic community thinks about this though.
    – Ray
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:56

As far as I know, the choice of a journal has no demonstrated effect on citations. (Having your paper in a preprint archive does boost citations though.) Some people seek journals with high impact factors or high prestige when this can improve their career prospects, although judging a paper from the journal it appears in is widely considered as bad practice. A number of researchers do care about publishers' practices with respect to pricing and open access, cf the longstanding boycott of Elsevier. They do this for the moral reason of helping improve the system, even though this can be detrimental to their careers. (Not very detrimental in most cases, as there are so many journals out there.)

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    +1. If you just care about having citations, it doesn't matter where you publish, as long as the preprint is on the arXiv. If you want the citations to be correct, though, then you need to update your arXiv preprint with the final version (post-referee, possibly pre-editorial), since otherwise most people will cite the journal article but in reality refer to the arXiv preprint. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 21:20

I think in the times of internet "journal access" is not really the practical bottleneck anymore that someone can and will read your paper somehow, rather the criterions Allure has listed.

The bigger technical bottlenecks for someone to spot and download your paper are:

  • is the journal indexed by google scholar, scopus, ISI, sci-hub (lawsuit with Elsevier to my knowledge)...
  • can someone easily find your research via above tools by few keywords without search operators (most people still don't use operators!!!)
  • do you actively disseminate your publications on researchgate, private/institute website, conferences, so researchers could become aware of it

So these points will converge to "access/visibilty" of your paper and the main bottleneck is that there is much more noise around the information you want to find nowadays and often you cannot restrict yourself to reading half a dozen journals in your field to stay up to date, especially on interdisciplinary news. I have changed and strengthened very much my kind of literature search over the past decade due to this fact.

For a young researcher it's in my opinion also more important to bring your results to more journals at the beginning of your career, get invited to review for them and not look too much on impact and accessibilty, you have to build a network and I think professors can have very different search and readings habits in their limited time in comparison to someone working solely on one topic (postdoc, PhD). At least my Professor and me often recommend very complementary papers to each other :-) I often read much more experimentally linked literature, while he interdisciplinary/thematically.

  • I totally agree. I did not think journal access was a huge issue - researchers will find ways to read their papers of interest regardless of whatever are pay-walls and restrictions are put in place. I was taken aback by my professor's decision to opt for another journal especially since he suggested the specific Elsevier journal from the start and I had already formatted the manuscript for submission. I'm not fazed, however. As you mentioned, my focus as an early-career academic should be on simply disseminating our work and building my network.
    – Ray
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:07

Not directly, but it's correlated. Many researchers (myself included) are reluctant to work with publishers that charge outrageous prices. And if a publisher charges outrageous prices, it's likely that my university/lab won't pay for it. Elsevier is, indeed, the perfect example for this.

That is, of course, assuming everything else is equal, which it never is. But the business practices of publishers are definitely part of the equation when deciding where to publish.


I don't publish in Elsevier (or referee or edit for them) because they're the most prominent of the evil parasitic publishers, and I want them to be utterly defeated so that international conglomerates will no longer see academic publishing as an easy way to giant profits and we can return to the situation where publishing is in the hands of people who care about knowledge.

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