Study highlights academic journal publication models in Brazil and Spain

brasil_espanhaThe Open Access publication model (OA) has been well entrenched as an international movement for more than two decades. The two principal options for the publication of research results are known as “green road” and “golden road”. The first of these includes self-archiving of papers in institutional or thematic repositories, and the second option incorporates hybrid journals and those that are exclusively open access.

With the signing of the Declarations of Budapest, Berlin and Bethesda, which took place between 2002 – 2003, there was an immediate increase in the number of open access journals, a trend which is showing signs of stabilizing these days. Currently, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) records more than 9,700 journals in some 133 countries.

The academic community and society itself, primarily in developing countries, are benefitting from this movement, while authors are looking for visibility and impact when choosing a journal for the publication of their research results. Both of these objectives can be attained by means of the green road. Nevertheless, according to Houghton and Swan, the benefits which come from the golden road far exceed those of the green road. In spite of this, authors consider that in the current transitional stage, repositories continue to be more viable both strategically and economically. In addition, the latest recommendation of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI, 2012) highlights the importance of repositories in making research results available in open access. “Every institution of higher education should have an OA repository, participate in a consortium with a consortial OA repository, or arrange to outsource OA repository services”.

The articles cited in the above paragraph form part of a recent publication authored by Rosangela Rodrigues and Ernest Abadal¹ which provides an overview of open access publication models in Brazil and Spain by an analysis of journals from both of these countries which are indexed in the Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus databases, according to their publication format – online or print, the type of access – open access or subscription, and the technology platform used.

Many developing countries do not possess a commercial academic publisher industry, and the majority of quality journals are produced on a not for profit basis since they are operated with public funds by learned societies and research institutes. On the other hand, Southern European countries have few commercial publishers and less funding when compared to the leading countries in the region. In spite of this fact, both of these countries – Brazil and Spain – have developed successful open access models. This post gives an outline of these programs and the reasons behind their success.

The open access model takes the view that scholarly knowledge is a global public asset and a fair way of being accountable to society for academic research which has been financed by public funds. For developing countries, this model is particularly important in promoting fairness and increasing the ability of researchers to make progress in their work. In addition, as far as the subscription model is concerned, besides paying for the research itself, universities must pay a second time for access to the journals in which the research in question is published. In this regard, the Salvador Declaration on Open Access: The Developing World Perspective signed in 2005 by those countries which took part in the International Seminar on Open Access which was held during the 9th International Congress on Medical Librarianship (ICML9) and the 7th Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information (CRICS7), was a milestone in the global Open Access movement.

In their respective regions, Brazil and Spain possess the greatest potential in the field of academic publishing and both have a dominant profile in academic output in their respective geographical areas.

In Brazil the number of journals indexed in international databases such as WoS and Scopus was relatively small in the period up to 2005. Since then, driven by the SciELO Program, journals have been gaining visibility and improved quality, perpetuating a virtuous circle right up to the present day. The vast majority (90%) of Brazilian journals indexed in the WoS and Scopus databases are also part of the SciELO collection and are issued in open access by learned societies and institutes of research and education. These institutes are run on a not for profit basis and their editors are also respected and productive researchers in their respective fields of activity. The use of the Open Journal System platform (OJS) made available by the Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology (IBICT) is also contributing to the support of publishers in the management and operation of journals by means of online resources and training activities. Ten percent of Brazilian journals run on publication fees which are used to cover publishing costs which range from US$ 60 to US$ 500 per article.

Publications produced in Spain have been studied by many authors. In the most recent article dealing with this issue, Rodríguez-Yunta and Giménez-Toledo (2013) highlighted the low level of representativeness of the country’s journals in the fields of humanities and social sciences. It may be that these subject fields have a low impact and low level of representativeness because of poor management. Another study analyzed 30 articles in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) focusing on the type of publisher, international presence on the editorial board, and the impact and profiles of their citations. At the time, the research revealed a predominance of 60% in the field of health, with 40% of this figure managed by commercial publishers. Research into the number of journals administered by universities in Spain (25% of the total) showed that numerous initiatives are necessary to improve the quality, visibility and impact of these journals.

The objective of the Rodrigues and Abadal study was to get an overview of the academic journals of both countries indexed in the WoS and Scopus databases in 2011, and to analyze the delivery models adopted.

General Aspects

It is mainly over the last decade that journals published in Brazil and Spain have been indexed in the WoS and Scopus databases. However, these journals are not new, having originated for the most part (76% in the case of Brazil and 71% in the case of Spain) before 1995 when online publishing was not commonplace. This leads to the assumption that these journals may have progressively migrated to online platforms. In Brazil, journals published by universities and learned societies predominate (87%), whereas in Spain the distribution is more evenly balanced, with 26% administered by learned societies, 32% by universities and institutes of research, and 28% by commercial publishers and partnerships between these and other associations.

In Brazil, the most important fields of research are health and agricultural sciences, with more than 60% of journal titles published in these two areas. These are followed by humanities and social sciences (16%). In Spain, health accounts for 40% of the published titles, followed by the social sciences and humanities (28%). Thus, health and social sciences are important in both countries, while other subject areas have distinct shares of published output.

Delivery models

With respect to the ways in which journals are delivered, the presence of a print version only is infrequent in both countries, especially in Brazil which fully embraced the online model. In Spain, however, print version only is more frequent than in Brazil (7.3% and 0.8%, respectively). This difference can be attributed to journals in the social sciences which preferentially publish in print format.

The proportion of titles in open access in Brazil and Spain is quite different, reaching a remarkable 97% in Brazil compared to 55% in Spain. The charging of fees to publish articles is infrequent in Brazil (10%) and is practically nonexistent in Spain. In both countries the journals receive government funding or funding from the institutions with which they are affiliated. However, other studies²׳³ obtained different results for the percentage of journals in open access in both countries, but this is as a result of the fact that the DOAJ was used as the source instead of information from the Web site of each of the journals, as in the present study. These authors found that the DOAJ failed to include the significant number of 99 journals from Spain, and 29 from Brazil, representing, respectively, 60% and 12% of the total.

Publication in open access requires a technological infrastructure capable of supporting the storage of contents, tools for searching and other services, and simultaneous access by a large number of users. This results in many journals using more than one platform at a time. This overlap of platforms is more pronounced in Brazil with an average of 1.8 platforms per journal compared to Spain with 1.1 platforms per journal.

In Brazil, the SciELO platform acts as a metapublisher for the vast majority (78%) of Brazilian journals included in this study. Other journals use their own platforms or that of OJS. There is no primary metapublisher in Spain, and journal publishers use their own platforms (50%), the OJS platform or those of commercial publishers.

The SciELO Spain collection began in 2001 as a pilot project. Since its beginning, the number of journals indexed continued to grow until it stabilized at around 40 journals, 27 of which were included in this study.

The question that arises from the data in this study is how is it that almost all of the high quality and high impact journals from Brazil, and more than half of those from Spain, publish their contents in open access.

In the case of Brazil, the explanation lies in the six principal stakeholders below who took a series of economic, political and technological measures, in addition to training in publishing to promote and strengthen the journals.

SciELO – The SciELO Program had its beginning in 1998 with 10 journals from Brazil. Fifteen years later, SciELO is in 16 countries, 11 of which with certified collections, with a total of more than one thousand journal titles (as of June 2013). SciELO uses international standards in quality and in metrics for measuring scientific impact. As an indexer, SciELO uses strict criteria for the inclusion and retention of journals in the collections, and acts as a technological platform for the publication of and access to the national and thematic collections of journals.

CNPq – This government agency, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has an annual budget of US$ 3 million which is divided amongst the 200 or so best journals.

Universities – These are the Institutions which are are responsible for publishing 47% of the journals included in this study, providing financial and human resources for management and publishing, as well as physical space in their facilities and the technological infrastructure. Almost all of the editors in Brazil are respected and productive professors and researchers in their respective fields.

Qualis CAPESQualis is a journal classification system for each field of knowledge developed and maintained by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) (Foundation for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES)). The grading of graduate courses has as one of its principal components the evaluation of journals in which the research results are published. The position of a journal in the Qualis ranking determines its prestige and influences the quantity and quality of submitted papers.

IBICT– The Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology (IBICT) offers training in publishing, and support in publishing in open access and on the OJS platform.

Associação Brasileira de Editores Científicos (ABEC) – The Brazilian Association of Academic Publishers (ABEC) offers courses and promotes events in academic publishing for editors and publishers.

In Spain, activities in the support of OA are focused on technological development, training and advising, but without any direct financing of the publication of journals. The most relevant initiatives are listed below:

Legislative and regulatory framework – Spanish laws, as well as the regulations governing universities, are favorable to OA. An example is the Law on Science, Technology and Innovation (2011) which includes an article on OA. Following the lead of institutions in European countries and the United States, universities have created mandates for self-archiving in institutional repositories. These measures have led to an awareness of OA by authors and publishers.

Fundación Española para la Ciencia y Tecnología (FECYT) – The Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) is the government agency which supports academic publication through programs that include training and awards for quality in academic publishing.

Universities and Institutes of Research – These institutions are responsible for publishing 39% of the journals coming from Spain which were part of this study. They provide funding and technical support to enhance the quality of the journals and facilitate their publication in OA.

Journal Evaluation Indexes – Alternative indexes measuring scientific impact were created in Spain with the objective of improving the performance of journals that are not currently indexed in WoS or Scopus.

Brazil and Spain have significant differences in many aspects, yet have a comparable number of journals indexed in prestigious international databases, and both work with the OA model mostly without author publication fees. In this regard, Brazil’s growth is remarkable in view of its recent research tradition of low funding and lack of skilled professionals. The two countries are similar in the age of their journals and in their principal areas of research activity – health sciences in both countries and agricultural sciences in Brazil.

The delivery models, however, are quite different. In Brazil, the predominant model is open access, with 97% of journals published by educational and research institutions, and academic societies. In this context, the SciELO Program has a key role, since 78% of the journals examined in this study are included in the SciELO platform. In its role as a meta-publisher, SciELO increases the visibility and dissemination of the journals, and even provides bibliometric data.

In Spain, the picture is less uniform, although 55% of the journals have adopted the OA model. The absence of a common aggregator such as SciELO results in a tendency for the journals to be dispersed in their delivery. The support of FECYT, for example, does not compare to the funding and technological support provided by the government of Brazil. Despite this, the country achieved a significant presence in the international indexes, and high visibility of its national science.

The two successful OA models identified in Brazil and Spain do not use publication fees, since financial, technological and political support are provided by the respective governments, institutions and learned societies. In conclusion, Rodrigues Abadal states that the extent of use of OA depends on the level and sustainability of this support. The authors, nevertheless, maintain that comparative studies of this nature are useful in exploring different scenarios where the OA model has been successful, and also in identifying reference points for policy planning in favor of OA.


¹ RODRIGUES, R.S., and ABADAL, E. Scientific Journals in Brazil and Spain: Alternative Publishing Models. J. Ass. Inform. Science and Technology. 2014. Available from:;jsessionid= EB2E3AE739C4C5A74D455B37349A1F28.f04t04?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false.

² ABADAL, E., et al.Open access in Spain. In ANGLADA, L., and ABADAL, E., eds. Open access in Southern European countries. Madrid: FECYT. 2010, pp. 101-115. Available from:

³ MIGUEL, S., MOYA-ANEGÓN, F., and CHINCHILLA-RODRIGUEZ, Z. Open access and Scopus: A new approach to scientific visibility from the standpoint of access. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 2011, Vol. 62, nº. 6, pp. 1130–1145. Available from:


HOUGHTON, J., and SWAN, A. Planting the green seeds for a golden harvest: Comments and clarifications on “Going for Gold.” D-lib magazine. 2013, vol. 19, nº 1/2. Available from:

Ten years on from the Budapest Open Access Initiative: Setting the default to open. Budapest Open Access Initiative. 2012. Available from:

PACKER, A.L. Os periódicos brasileiros e a comunicação da pesquisa nacional. Rev. USP. 2011, nº. 89. Available from:

Declaração de Salvador sobre o acesso aberto: a perspectiva dos países em desenvolvimento. 9th International Congress on Medical Librarianship; 7 Congresso Regional de Informação em Ciências da Saúde; International Seminar on Open Access; 20-23 setembro 2005; Salvador, BA. Salvador; 23 set. 2005. [viewed 18 April 2011] Available from:

How much does it cost to publish in Open Access?. SciELO in Perspective. [viewed 10 April 2014]. Available from:

External Links

Web of Science –

Scopus –


lilianAbout Lilian Nassi-Calò

Lilian Nassi-Calò studied chemistry at Instituto de Química – USP, holds a doctorate in Biochemistry by the same institution and a post-doctorate as an Alexander von Humboldt fellow in Wuerzburg, Germany. After her studies, she was a professor and researcher at IQ-USP. She also worked as an industrial chemist and presently she is Coordinator of Scientific Communication at BIREME/PAHO/WHO and a collaborator of SciELO.


Translated from the original in Portuguese by Nicholas Cop Consulting.


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