Journals were born out of the need to disseminate the findings of scholarly research amongst a peer group. This then led to the research being assessed and discussed by those peers. In effect, this is still the procedure today. All scholarly publication is about dissemination and discussion which leads to the author acquiring a reputation for excellence and that mark of excellence is then attached to the institution where he/she works. Initially, most journals were produced by non-profit making small societies but in the mid 20th century, commercial publishers took over the high quality and therefore scholarly prestigious journals and these journals then went behind publishers’ paywalls. 

The process of academic publishing starts with the submission process and then moves into the peer review stage and finally into the published version. 


The review process is central to academic journal publishing. Other scholars in the field must consider the material worthy of publication.  However, sometimes “confirmatory bias” has been seen to apply where there is an unconscious tendency to accept material that supports the views of the reviewer and to reject those that do not. But on the whole reviewers try to be impartial and in most cases, it is double blind review where the authors do not know who is reviewing and the reviewers do not know the authors. Reviewers are looking for the following in an article that is sent to them.

  • The author must explain why the manuscript is of interest and indicate the new information it contains.
  • The author must address the question of how their research compares with previously reported methods or research.
  • They will look to see if figures and tables are used only to enhance understanding.
  • All relevant references are included and of recent origin and that the material is ethically sound.

Unconditional acceptance is very rare. Generally the author will be asked to make revisions in line with the reviewers’ recommendations. These should be considered carefully and a detailed response given.

In most cases, an author will hand over the copyright of his/her article to a publisher, after which he/she does not have the rights to use it and the material becomes the property of the publisher. An author should request permission to lodge a version of the article on an institutional repository.

In 2010 the STM Report estimated that there were 2,000 journal publishers in the world with 657 publishers producing 11,550 journals (approx 50% of all journals). There were approx 25,400 active peer reviewed journals in early 2009 which published 1.5 million articles per year. The annual rate of growth for journals was 3% and the annual rate for journal articles was 3.5%. In 2015 a new publication by UNESCO on Scholarly Communications  (open access version) speaks of 100,000 scholarly journals published worldwide by more than 5,000 publishers.  While the two reports may not be comparing like with like it does indicate the exponential growth in published journals.




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