Discussing their analysis of a new dataset of journals published via the Open Journals Systems publishing platform, Saurabh Khanna, Jon Ball, Juan Pablo Alperin and John Willinsky  argue that rather than being an aspiration an open, regional and bibliodiverse publishing ecosystem is already in existence.

While no one really knows how many academic journals exist in the world, our recent study sheds light on how typical estimates undercount (where they do not discount) a sizable portion of journals from the Global South. The 25,671 journals considered in our study largely originate in the Global South. They have published more than 5.8 million articles and reports in the last decade, with research offered in at least 60 languages, representing both STEM and non-STEM disciplines. Yet for all their geographic, linguistic, and disciplinary diversity, these journals have yet to be fully incorporated into the body of knowledge that researchers regularly consult, and this may well be to the detriment of science and its beneficiaries.

What is common to the journals in this study is their use of the open source editorial management and publishing platform Open Journals Systems (OJS). OJS was released in 2002 by the Public Knowledge Project (with which we are associated, providing us with access to this set of journal data from 2020, now made freely available here).

These journals are published in 136 nations, with a larger concentration in lower middle income and upper middle incomes countries (see figure below). Indonesia and Brazil are seen to emerge as powerhouses in generating scholarly output, with both nations together accounting for more than 50% of the journals analysed.

The geographic diversity exhibited by these open access journals is matched by a linguistic variety that goes well beyond typical assumptions about what constitutes the languages of science. We find evidence of research published in 60 languages, with half of the articles in languages other than English. By comparison, the Elsevier owned research index Scopus includes publications in 40 languages, yet with English making up 93% of its content. While the research hegemony of English is still present in our dataset, another linguistic feature of our collection is that nearly half of journals (48%) publish in more than one language.

Further, the journals offer a great range of disciplinary diversity (see figure below). The social sciences are the focus for 46% of the journals. STEM fields – led by the medical and health sciences, and followed by engineering and technology – represent 40% of journals, while the humanities account for the remaining 14% of journals.


And finally, with regard to these journals’ financial model, they can be said to diversify the larger scholarly publishing economy. An earlier study estimated that 84% of journals using OJS are Diamond Open Access publications, which do not charge either authors or readers. Instead, they rely on institutional support, faculty and student effort, and the open source software community.

This analysis of the geographic, linguistic, and disciplinary dimensions of these journals speaks to how recent calls for greater bibliodiversity in the research literature can be met through the existing literature. The challenge, however, is with the underrepresentation of this literature in leading indexes, such as the Web of Science, where less than 2% of these journals are indexed, and Scopus, where less than 8% are included. It is not that this literature is invisible, as 88% of it is found in Google Scholar due to its deliberate efforts to be globally inclusive. And it is not that this literature is, as many assume, “predatory,” as less than 2% of these journals are found on the prominent, if questionable, lists associated with Beall and Cabells. Rather, this robust body of work represents an example and an opportunity to realise the ambitious decolonizing agenda of knowledge redistribution called for by the philosopher Achille Mbembe.

All told, this body of journals demonstrate that research is far more of a global and diverse enterprise than is commonly credited or indexed. Studies, such as this one, can assist and encourage researchers to consult the full breadth of the literature that bears on their work. Our hope is, as well, that this work will also help us reflect on whose knowledge guides our understanding of the world.

This post draws on the authors’ paper, Recalibrating the scope of scholarly publishing: A modest step in a vast decolonization process, published in Quantitative Science Studies. 

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Image Credit: In text figures reproduced with permission of the authors, featured image, Stefan Steinbauer via Unsplash.