What are mirror journals, and can they offer a new world of open access?

Pilot program gives authors another way to publish OA while enjoying the benefits of an established journal

mirror journals world neurosurgery
Mirror journals, which are fully gold open access, have the same title as their parent journal, distinguished by the letter X after their name.

To meet the evolving needs of our community and expand our open access publishing options, Elsevier is piloting the concept of open access “mirror journals.” These journals are fully gold open access but share the same editorial board, aims and scope and peer review policies as their existing “parent” journals – and the same level of visibility and discoverability. They provide an additional option for open access publishing in the Elsevier portfolio.

They will have the same title as their parent journal, distinguished by the letter X after their name. The new titles will have their own ISSN numbers and citation metrics.

Why have we created open access mirror journals?

At Elsevier, we strongly support open access and are increasing the proportion of OA articles we publish every year. What we’ve heard from some authors during this expansion is that while they sometimes wish to or need to publish open access, they don’t want to sacrifice association with the leading journal brands in their field.

Hybrid journals provide a great platform for OA publishing in established journals and remain popular with authors. Hybrid journals have also been an important driving force for OA publishing particularly in Europe, and we anticipate they will remain important to authors, both those choosing to publish OA and those choosing to publish subscription. However, we set ourselves a challenge to think about new ways of growing OA publishing while meeting both author and funder expectations.

We introduced the concept of OA mirror journals in 2018, launching a pilot program of more than 40 mirror journals across a range of subject areas in life, health and physical sciences. OA mirror journals operate under a fully gold OA business model, so they provide an additional option for OA publishing in the Elsevier portfolio. The OA mirror journals have their own homepages on elsevier.com, and the parent journal homepages also link to their respective OA mirror journal homepages.

How does an open access mirror journal work?

OA mirror journals sit alongside Elsevier’s hybrid and existing gold OA journals and retain a strong connection in brand and process with the existing established journal.

The editorial and peer review process is identical for the parent journal and the OA mirror journal. Authors submit their manuscripts to one journal site. During submission and just before acceptance, authors can choose whether they want to publish in the parent journal or the OA mirror journal. In all cases, the author’s choice of business model and journal is entirely independent of the editorial and peer review process that is applied to their manuscript. In other words, our editors and peer reviewers are not aware of the business model the article will be published under, so this factor cannot impact their decisions.

The OA mirror journals have the same title as their parent journal, distinguished by the letter X after their name. The mirror titles have their own ISSN numbers and their own article citation metrics.

How is an open access mirror journal indexed?

Indexing services have been quick to cover OA mirror journals. When the parent journal is already indexed in MEDLINE, PubMed Central will accept the OA mirror journal without a further quality review. Scopus will index the OA mirror journal as soon as the first issue has been published, and the OA mirror journal will ultimately have its own CiteScore to give prospective authors a transparent way of determining the OA mirror journal’s impact.

DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) has accepted the first OA mirror journals, and Elsevier will continue to start DOAJ approval processes with all other OA mirror journals. Clarivate has accepted the first mirror journal for ESCI (Emerging Sources Citation Index) coverage, and other applications are in the pipeline. We have been gratified to see that citations have already started to flow in to the OA mirror journals, demonstrating their immediate impact with the research community.

How have open access mirror journals been received?

The OA mirror journals in the pilot program were launched between September to December 2018, so they are still in an early stage of development. Still, we are encouraged by the responses from authors and editors to date. While manuscript submissions vary between individual OA mirror journals, they are off to a good start, and in many cases the OA mirror journals have already accepted and published their first articles, with more than 200 articles published overall by the end of March. We will continue to monitor and track this performance in the months ahead.

From an editorial perspective, we know that editors already have many commitments, so we’re hopeful that offering a new option leveraging an existing editorial board and peer review network is a good way to expand OA without putting further stress on the system.

How have funding bodies responded to open access mirror journals?

The OA mirror journals have not been launched with any one funding body in mind, but over the last two years, we have seen an increase in funders focusing on fully gold OA journals. We therefore hope that the OA mirror journals will provide another option that authors and funding bodies can consider. Where existing gold OA journals don’t match an author’s publishing preferences, OA mirror journals may provide the best of both worlds: a fully gold OA journal that also leverages the brand, processes, editorial functionality and other features of the established parent.

What’s next?

We recently finished launching the initial set of titles in the pilot. The plan now is to evaluate the program later in the year based on the performance of this first series of OA mirror journals. For further information, we have created this FAQ. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or feedback, we encourage you to ask them in the comments below.

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