Digital technology has brought about benefits to the peer-reviewed scientific literature, along with complexity and confusion. Prior to digitization of articles, scientific articles were only published in print. This meant that authors and readers had to wait for physical copies to be printed and distributed. Digitization led to multiple alternative ways to access the literature that increased convenience, but has resulted in confusion about the options now available. The ever-evolving world of publishing still includes printed journals, but has added online only and open access to select articles. Early in the digital evolution, online “predatory” journals arose, creating skepticism about digitization of scientific literature. Predatory journals charge excessive fees for publishing open access articles, often do not have a peer-review process, and may participate in other fraudulent activities. Clear guidelines exist for how to tell if a journal is reputable, including Cabell’s Predatory Journal Blacklist. Despite negative impressions of digitized literature, highly reputable scientific journals have embraced digitization for all its benefits.
HCMR, as a reputable scientific journal which has been published for over 45 years, uses a rigorous, blinded, peer-review process for all article formats. Because the distribution mode is chosen late in the publishing steps, reviewers do not know which modality will be used for any manuscript.
HCMR uses three publication distribution and access formats: print & online, online only, and open access. The format in which the article will appear is determined after an "accept" decision has been made. Print & online articles are assigned to an issue and volume of the physical copy, and are available online for subscribers. HCMR offers a limited number of online only articles associated with each printed issue. These articles are available to subscribers and are listed in the Table of Contents of the printed issue. The full-text of online only articles can only be accessed online. It is the online version of any article that is indexed in the major databases. Open access articles are those for which authors pay the article publication charge, making the article available free to anyone regardless of subscription. Open access articles undergo the same peer-review and editorial decision-making processes as print or online only articles. All articles accepted by HCMR also are “published ahead of print” (PAP) for a limited time after the proofs are final. PAP offers the full article online prior to its actual publication in a specific issue. Information about all articles ready for distribution is submitted to Medline and similar databases.
Authors need to pay attention to the rigor of the peer-review process for any journal. Although some scholars have stereotyped online only and open access articles as “pay-to-play” based on predatory journal practices, most reputable journals now offer these formats. At HCMR we are committed to maintaining the same level of rigor of all articles accepted for publication. We are also committed to facilitating rapid dissemination of knowledge through the various print and digitization modalities available.
Larry R. Hearld, PhD
Cheryl Rathert, PhD