Tuesday 15 August 2023

How Transitioning to Gold Open Access Grew Medicina Journal

By Dr Carla Aloè, Head of Societies and Acquisition, MDPI.

Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Annual Conference and Awards 2023.

For many societies and institutes, switching their journals to a gold open access model is scary. Some do not want to renounce the high revenue that comes from institutional and consortia subscriptions, others are concerned that authors will not be able to pay the article processing charges (APCs), and others are worried about the quality of the articles in gold open access journals. 

At MDPI, our priority is to listen, understand and address these concerns. In this blog post, I would like to share the story of Medicina, one of the journals we publish on behalf of societies and institutes, transitioning to a gold open access model.  

The history of Medicina

When we took over Medicina in 2018, the owner of the journal, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, had many concerns about transitioning to gold open access. The journal had a long history, as it was launched in 1920 and went through different changes due to the political and historical events that affected Lithuania during and after World War II. 

The journal was already open access in 2001, embracing the philosophy of making the latest research freely available to everyone without subscription or other paywalled restrictions. In 2014, Medicina was transferred to Elsevier and published in a diamond open access model, supported by an EU grant. 

In September 2017, we got in contact with the Editor-in-Chief of Medicina, Prof. Edgaras Stankevičius, for the first time. The EU grant was going to end soon, and the university was interested in knowing more about sustainable alternatives to continue publishing the journal. The introduction of APCs was a concern for the institution, as its members worried that they would deter authors from submitting to the journal.

Transitioning to gold open access

A series of meetings took place in the following weeks. In them, we explained how APCs not only allow publishers to cover the editorial and publication costs but also to reinvest in the journal and launch services and initiatives to support researchers. As MDPI does not work with external vendors, we are able to closely control the quality, timing and costs of publication, being able to charge APCs that are highly competitive on the market. 

Of course, we offer a range of discounts and memberships to financially support the authors. For example, the Institutional Open Access Program (IOAP) that counts more than 800 affiliated institutes offers discounts on APCs for associated researchers, and discount vouchers are provided to reviewers that submit comprehensive and timely review reports. Members of societies affiliated with the journal also benefit from discounts. 

We were confident that Medicina would develop nicely, strongly believing in its potential after transitioning to gold open access. 

In 2018, the contract was signed, a Managing Editor was appointed and a dedicated editorial team was organized to support the journal in all the day-to-day operations. The transition was smooth, and the first issue of Medicina was published that same year by MDPI.  

Gold open access leads to growth 

The newly established Medicina editorial team visited the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences in Kaunas, and the Editor-in-Chief and other representatives on the journal travelled to our headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. These personal interactions helped to develop trust in the relationship between the editorial board and MDPI, and to build the foundations for a long-term collaboration. 

For the first year and a half, to support the journal in its transition period, we heavily invested in the journal so it could completely waive the APCs. This is always a delicate moment, requiring a lot of collaboration and flexibility not only with the institute and the editorial board of the journal but also with the previous publisher. The authors, readers and other stakeholders of the journal also needed to be informed and supported throughout the process.  

In agreement with the university, in 2019, we introduced an APC of 1500 CHF to publish in the journal. The number of publications increased by more than 600% that year, and the good quality of articles published in Medicina led to a substantial increase in its impact factor. 

Medicina in 2023

Currently, the journal features 25 sections, of which many were established in 2020. The journal is still led by Prof. Stankevičius and is supported by an editorial board of more than 400 experts in all the different areas of medicine. The journal’s visibility on the MDPI website, which received more than 90 million monthly views in 2022, drew a lot of attention to it, attracting more readers and, consequently, more citations. 

To align with the expansion of journal services, market conditions, inflation costs and a significant increase in the number of submissions and rejected papers, the APCs increased to 1800 CHF in January 2022, making the journal a good source of income for the university. In 2022, we published 1,840 citable items and received more than 10,000 citations. The journal keeps growing in an exponential and healthy way thanks to it transitioning to gold open access and publishing high-quality work. 

MDPI is a proud Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Annual Conference and Awards 2023.

About the author 

Carla Aloè joined MDPI in 2020 as an Associate Publisher and Scientific Officer. In 2022, she was promoted to Publisher and took over the lead of the Society Partnerships and Acquisition Team. In January 2023, Carla was appointed as the head of the newly established Society and Acquisition Department. Before joining MDPI, she worked as a Commissioning Editorial Team Lead at Frontiers. Carla holds a PhD in Early Modern Literature from the University of Birmingham, UK.

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