I am considering joining the recent boycott of Elsevier, however I work with biologists on theoretical/mathematical biology (in particular, evolutionary game theory and population biology). However, It seems like Journal of Theoretical Biology is the premier journal for technical work in this field, and my co-authors often suggest it.

What are some (preferably, open-access) alternatives to JTB?

  • Thanks a lot for this thread. Lately I have also tried to find an open access journal to publish works that can be cataloged as "theoretical biology" or "mathematical biology" (usually without new experimental data, although they can use experimental data from other papers). Until now, Journal of Theoretical Biology was my usual journal for publication, but I have not found any similar open access journal with similar or higher impact factor.
    – user768
    May 3, 2012 at 10:35
  • +1 for introducing me to the concept, I must have been completely buried in my own work to have missed the severity of the situation and boycott.
    – posdef
    Aug 9, 2013 at 9:42
  • This is a interesting list on this page: bio.vu.nl/nvtb/JournalsTB.html
    – user9575
    Nov 19, 2013 at 20:42
  • 1
    @MikeMcCoy you could even go one step further and post to bioRxiv. Nov 22, 2013 at 15:50
  • 1
    Looking for a variety of journals is great, but be careful not to compromise on journal quality and reputation to follow a political trend.
    – Cape Code
    Mar 28, 2015 at 11:40

4 Answers 4


Since your work is in game theory and population biology, do not forget Springer's

Journal of Theoretical Ecology. It's a newer journal (started in 2008) but already has an impact factor close to JTB, and has an open access option. Alan Hastings is the Editor in Chief of this journal (you'd have a hard time finding a more prominent figure in Theoretical Biology than him).

Unfortunately most journals in the subject don't have open access options (e.g. Mathematical Biosciences, Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, Ecological Modeling, Journal of Theoretical Population Biology, Journal of Theoretical Biology)

Also don't forget Bio Journals, you can stick the more advanced math and proofs in an appendix, and often your work will get more exposure in these journals. I know Proceedings of the Royal Society Part B, the American Naturalist, Journal of Applied Ecology and PLoS BIO all have open access options and take modeling papers as long as the results are interesting from a biological perspective and aren't just a cool model that was fun to explore (a good intro and discussion is key for these journals as they all have very high impact factors).

If you prove things in your work also consider applied math journals like Nonlinear Dynamics (Springer) which has an open access option.

  • 1
    Ecosphere is a recent online only, open access Journal put out by the Ecological Society of America. It was started in 2010, so it doesn't even have an impact factor yet, but most ESA journals have impact factors above 4. This seems like another potential option for the future esapubs.org/esapubs/journals/ecosphere.htm. Jan 9, 2014 at 2:57

There are quite a few journals where you can publish theoretical work in this area. Here are a few suggestions (the distinction is based on my perception and knowledge of what they've published, I'll let others chip in if they disagree):

For more theoretical work:

For more applied work:

This is not exhaustive of course, and I suggest you discuss these "candidates" with your collaborators.

EDIT: I marked some of them "open access" because they advertise(d) so. This does not mean that the others do not offer that option, you'll have to check.

  • these sound great for algorithms work, do you have any suggestions evolutionary game theory and population biology? (I think JMB is fine for that, but it would not be in scope for the rest). Feb 15, 2012 at 14:00
  • Not off the top of my head unfortunately. I'll edit the above if suggestions come to my mind. Feb 15, 2012 at 14:26
  • okay, I will +1 but won't mark as accepted for now. Thank you for the feedback! Feb 15, 2012 at 14:32

You can consider BMC Evolutionary Biology and PLoS ONE for game theoretical studies. Unfortunately both are open access, which means there is a hefty fee involved.

  • 4
    If you reread the question you'll see that Open Access is not an unfortunate problem instead a rather desired feature.
    – posdef
    Aug 9, 2013 at 9:44

Another good option is "Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling", here.

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