Thursday, 24 October 2013

Many (new) open-access journals in meteorology and climatology

File:PhD Comics Open Access Week 2012.ogv
9-minute video by PhD Comics explaining open access from WikiMedia.
The journal of the German language meteorological organizations, Meteorologische Zeitschrift, has just announced it will move to full open-access publishing in 2014.
[The] editorial board and editor-in-chief of Meteorologische Zeitschrift (MetZet) are pleased to announce that MetZet will be published as full open access journal from the beginning of the year 2014. All contents of this journal from then on will be freely available to readers. Authors are free to non commercially distribute their articles and to post them on their home pages. MetZet follows with this change the requests of many authors, institutions, and funding organizations.
This was a long term request of mine. MetZet has very high standards and publishes good work. In that respect it would be an honour to publish there. In the past it was even one of the main journals in the field. It published the first climate classification by Köppen. It has articles by Hann, Bjeknes, Angström, Flohn and Ertel. However, I did not publish in MetZet up to now because almost nobody has a subscription to it. Thus after getting through the tough review, who would read the articles had I published there? Now this problem is solved.

Other less well known "national" open journals are Időjárás - Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service (OMSZ) and the Journal of the Catalan Association of Meteorology Tethys. Also Tellus A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography and Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology have changed to open-access in 2012.

Then we have the IOP journal Environmental Research Letters and the new Elsevier journal Weather and Climate Extremes. Copernicus, the publisher of the European Geophysical Union, has many more open access journals. The most important ones for meteorologists and climatologists are likely:

[UPDATE. O. Bothe has written a more up to date list with open-access journals (October 2014)]

Bad journals

Not all open-access journals are good. Jeffrey Beale even keeps a list of predatory publishers and journals.

Recently Science magazine tested a large number of them in the field of medicine and found that half of them accepted a completely flawed article. Many without even performing a review. A lovely story, I must admit. Even if I have the feeling that Science as a pay-wall publisher was aiming for headlines against open-access publishing.

You could probably make a similar story about pay-wall publishers. It is possible that there are more bad journals in open-access because the author and not the reader pays. On the other hand, for the good journals I see no differences in quality.

MDPI journal Climate

MDPI is not on the Beale list. In June this year they launched a new journal called Climate and an article in the first issue has already made the first two editors to resign from the Editorial Board because of its low quality standards.

A positive point for the journal is that it explicitly invited comments on this low quality article. In such a comment Dana Nuccitelli, John Abraham, Rasmus Benestad and Scott Mandia wrote:
... [T]he claim that a two-century linear temperature increase is a recovery from a recent cool period is not supported by the data. Furthermore, this thermal recovery hypothesis is not connected to any physical phenomenon; rather it is a result of a simplistic and incorrect curve-fitting operation. Other errors in the article are: the claim that the heating of the Earth has halted, misunderstanding of the relationship between carbon dioxide concentration and the resultant radiative forcing, and a failure to account for forcings other than carbon dioxide (such as other greenhouse gases, atmospheric aerosols, land use changes, etc.). Each of these errors brings serious question to the conclusions drawn in the referenced article. The simultaneous occurrence of all of these errors in a single study guarantees that its conclusions cannot be supported and, in fact, are demonstrably incorrect.
I had expected such a thing, even if not immediately in the first issue, because searching for the term Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change, I came across the article A Multidisciplinary, Science-Based Approach to the Economics of Climate Change by Alan Carlin. This paper should never have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It is a collection of weird figures taken off of climate ostrich blogs.

Furthermore Mr. Carlin (a well-known climate ostrich) was guest editor of the special issue in which his paper was published in record time. Thus I asked the publisher IJERPH how they handle such cases. How they make sure that the reviews are independent and a reviewer can be sure that his anonymity is kept. And I asked who selected Alan Carlin to be guest editor?

I got no real answer from the managing editor Dr. Ophelia Han, just empty words about their great peer-review system. I found this very unsatisfactory and made a mental note never to publish with MDPI. Especially, as the publisher has many more issues.

The third scandal is another erroneous climate paper in the MDPI journal Remote Sensing by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, which led to resignation of the editor.

Furthermore, a paper in the MDPI journal Life solving the puzzle of the origin and evolution of cellular life in the universe led several editors to resign, but not to its retraction. That such a paper can be published is unbelievable. I do encourage people to read this article, it is enormously funny. Maybe just for geeks.

Finally, MDPI published a paper in the wrong journal. A paper for the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS) ended up in the journal Molecules in February 2012. They promised to move the paper, but up to now did not do so. That is not a scientific problem, but a sign of a sloppy publishing culture.

Even if the journal Climate showed a willingness to learn by inviting comments, there are so many serious problems at this relatively small publisher that I will personally not risk my reputation by publishing in a MDPI journal.


The Directory of Open Access Journals lists 25 journal in the category Meteorology and Climatology and not all of the above are listed. All in all, quite a nice list of journals to select from. Also for open-access journals you have to select the reputable journals.

If I forgot any important open-access journals in our field, please add them in the comments.


  1. > It is possible that there are more bad journals in open-access because the author and not the reader pays.

    I think so. If you're getting people to pay to read your journal, you've got an incentive to make it good enough that people will want to read it.

    I get the impression that many of the bad open-access journals don't really exist at all - there's an online archive, but that's it.

    It will self-correct in time, and people will learn not to submit to awful journals, but its interesting that this problem wasn't forseen - or at least, not by me. I mean the problem of, essentially, criminals setting up journals for no purpose other than harvesting author fees.

  2. I would expect that these authors know what they are doing, part of being a scientist is knowing which journals in your field are reputable and at least you know which journals you have cited. Thus I would also expect that the problem will not go away.

    Somewhere I read the comment that some subscription journals also have a tendency to low standards as they have promised libraries to produce to many volumes a year. Bad journals are not unique to OA, probably just more prevalent.

    The argument that people will want to read the journal is no longer so strong as journals are typically sold in large bundles with many journals.

    If you want people to pay to publish in your journal, you've got an incentive to make it good enough that people want to publish there.

    Sorry for the contrarian reply. :-)

    We should only change our line contrasting blog science with research published in peer reviewed journals. That is no longer sufficient. It should be in reputable scientific journals.

  3. Please see the list at

  4. Zomba, thank you for the link.

    I had not realised that the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society is also Open Access.


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