If you are an academic or someone in academic publishing, have you ever wondered how many academic journals are there in the world? Well, I do.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 30,000 academic journals, and the number continues to increase by about 5%-7% per year.
This question is pertinent to academic writers as they need to have a persistent perception of academic publishing and where their research belongs. Another reason academic writers want to know the number of academic journals is because it helps them choose a journal to submit their articles.
In this article, I will try to answer and discuss this question as comprehensively as possible. We will go into a brief insight into different academic journals, the models, the number of academic publishers, the number of issues, and the number of articles published.
Table of Contents
What is an academic journal?
Before discussing academic journals and their number, we need to understand what they are and how they work.
An academic journal is a periodical containing articles and academic research (experimentation, results, hypotheses, etc.).
The works usually contain significant current research related to an academic subject within various academic disciplines, such as business, medicine, the sciences, theology, history and humanities, among many others.
An academic journal also publishes different research types. Some of these include original articles, reviews, book reviews, case studies, short communications, and so on. Usually, bigger journals publish a wider variety of research works.
One vital criterion for an academic journal is to publish novel research and discoveries. When you make an important scientific discovery and form a hypothesis in research and academia, you stake a claim by publishing it in an academic journal.
A scientific dispute, e.g., researchers fighting to claim as the pioneer of discovery, may result in the parties involved looking at their journal publications (disputes also look at patent registration and other intellectual property documentations).
The term periodical means that academic journals are published at regular intervals. A journal publication is usually identified by the volume number and the issue number.
Say a journal publishes one volume per year and three issues per volume. Volume 25, Number 2 publication, refers to the second issue of its 25th-year publication.
The role and importance of academic journals
Academic journals play a pioneering role in research and academia. They provide a platform for academic researchers to share their knowledge with peers and contribute to the academic development of the world.
In the academic field, a scholarly journal is typically a periodical publication intended to further research progress in an academic discipline, such as academic journal publishing.
Academic journals become a reference source for researchers to expand their knowledge and identify the research gap not covered in the literature. In other words, a journal publication can become an important stepping stone for new knowledge and discoveries.
Many new inventions, innovations, commercialization and advancement of technologies occur due to many research works in academic journals.
Academic journals publish papers specially tailored to their scope of the publication. When looking for a suitable journal to publish your work, publication scope is one of the first things you need to know.
If you send a manuscript journal not specialized in your field, you will get an immediate rejection. As academic publishing grows, new journals need to be more specialized and focus on highly niche areas.
Good academic journals also practice peer review. Peer review means that a manuscript submitted to a journal will be reviewed by another (or a few) experts in the field to assess the paper before recommending publication.
In peer review, an academic professor at Standford University, United States, can review and critically assess a work done by a counterpart in the University of Kyoto, Japan.
A good peer review practice is called blind review, i.e., the reviewers and authors are anonymous to each other. They can only read the manuscript and the comments.
But of recent, the “open review” concept has emerged and begun to gain traction in academic publishing. In open reviews, authors and reviewers know each other’s work and comments.
Peer review is an important check-and-balance mechanism in scholarly publishing. The academic reviewing process is vital because it ensures that academic standards are met, and that published academic research is of high quality.
Having been involved in journal publishing for over a decade, my experience handling the peer review process is enlightening. I have worked with reviewers who can pinpoint the unoriginality of papers within a short time. They also mostly know their subject field extremely well.
These reviewers are academic experts in the same field who provide editorial feedback on the academic work concerning its substance, significance, clarity, constructiveness and relevance).
The traditional subscription vs. open access academic journals
A common, sometimes heated discussion about academic journals linger around the journal models – the traditional publishing/subscription model and the open access model.
In the traditional academic journal publishing model, users can access and read the articles through an institutional subscription (primarily via the library) or pay an individual access fee.
On the other hand, the open access model allows users to read, download, and distribute journal articles freely without paying fees. I have written about open access journals and how they are taking the world by storm.
Since an academic journal can only be either one of those two models (traditional and open access), we can methodically achieve the total number of journals published globally by summing up the numbers of the traditional and open access journals.
The number of academic publishers and journal issues published
There are an estimated 2,000 academic publishers globally; the number fluctuates yearly due to acquisitions, business closing down, and the emergence of new scholarly publishers.
An academic publisher publishes several publications (volume and issue) per year.
Younger journals publish one or two issues annually (this is how most of our scholarly journals started), and the more established with a higher frequency between four and eight.
Some journals on the more productive spectrum publish issues monthly or even weekly basis. A recent random sampling data found out that journals indexed in the Science Citation Index and a few others on average publish a total of 10.95 issues per year.
As an academic journal gains in reputation and begins to be indexed by major databases, it will attract more article submissions and usually expand by publishing more issues per year.
The more the number of issues published, the wider the journal’s visibility will be, and the more likely it will increase profit.
The total number of journal articles published
Globally, more than 2 million journal articles are published yearly, which is expected to increase by 2%-4% annually.
In one of my discussions with a Clarivate Analytics rep (Clarivate Analytics acquired the Intellect Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters in 2016, including the Web of Science database), a journal, at minimum, needs to publish ten articles per year to increase impact.
But some bigger journals can publish thousands of articles per year.
For instance, at the time of the writing, PLOS One (one of the open access journals I discussed before) had a total of more than 250,000. Statistically, since its inception in 2006, it has published, on average, a whopping 17,000 articles per year!
Based on studies and sources, 30,000 academic journals globally, with an increasing rate of 5%-7% per year, is a reasonable estimate.
Scholarly journals will remain a strong backbone of academic publishing, playing a critical role and a gatekeeper between research and the research community. Finding how many academic journals are there in the world will be less important than appreciating the impact of good scholarly publishing.
I also believe that a massive shift in academic journal publishing is expected, not on the numbers but rather on the publishing model.