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Journal Selection for PMC

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) decides whether the scientific and editorial character and quality of a journal merit its inclusion in PMC. In making this decision NLM considers the suitability of the journal for the NLM collection (based on the criteria in the Collection Development Guidelines), as well as the recommendations of external, expert consultants. The current scientific and editorial quality review process for journals that apply to participate in PMC has been in place since November 2014.

The consultants include scientists (i.e., Ph.D.- or M.D.-level researchers and physicians) and medical librarians. At least two consultants, usually one scientist and one librarian, review each journal. The consultants generally review articles from the last two years of journal content and evaluate them primarily based on scientific and editorial quality. Their recommendations are taken into consideration by NLM in reaching a final decision on selecting a title for inclusion in PMC.

Journals that already are fully indexed for MEDLINE generally will not require further scientific review for PMC.

Scientific and Editorial Quality Assessment

The scientific quality assessment for PMC focuses on the scientific rigor of the articles examined. NLM uses the definition of scientific rigor provided by the NIH Office of Extramural Research, which defines scientific rigor as "the strict application of the scientific method to ensure robust and unbiased experimental design, methodology, analysis, interpretation and reporting of results." This includes full transparency in reporting experimental details so that others may reproduce and extend the findings. NLM also looks for journals to demonstrate good editorial quality and elements that contribute to the objectivity and credibility of the content in deciding whether to select a journal for PMC.

Examples of the types of questions PMC consultants may consider when performing their evaluations include:

Category Possible Considerations
Journal policies
  • Are the journal's aims and scope clearly stated and adhered to?
  • Is the peer review process explicit and sufficiently detailed? Does the journal have a policy for the review of articles authored by editors and editorial board members (if applicable)?
  • Are the journal's ethical policies clearly stated and adhered to?
  • Are commercial sponsorships clearly addressed (i.e., do not raise questions about objectivity of published content)?
  • Do authors consistently disclose financial conflicts of interest?
Article content
  • Does the abstract provide a complete and accurate description of the content of the article?
  • Are the study aims clearly stated and logical?
  • Is the rationale/justification for conducting the study clear?
  • Are the methods described in sufficient detail so that the experiment could be reproduced?
  • Does the article/study adhere to relevant reporting guideline(s)?
  • Is the study design robust and appropriate to the stated aim?
  • Are the conclusions drawn supported by the data?
  • Is the discussion section critical and comprehensive?
  • Are the references appropriate in number and up-to-date?
  • Are statements supported appropriately by parenthetical citations?
  • Is the writing clear (i.e., does not impede scientific meaning or cause confusion), concise, and logical?
Figure and table quality
  • Are figures and tables well-constructed and of sufficiently high resolution (i.e., not blurry)?
  • Are figures and tables well-annotated and easy to read and interpret?
Formatting and organization
  • Do articles of the same type (e.g., original research) follow a consistent structure, outlined in the instructions for authors?
  • Are there indicators of sufficient editorial attention, as evidenced by the elimination of editorial errors (e.g., incorrectly numbered sections, mislabeled tables/figures)?
Editorial board and authorship
  • Are full names and affiliations of journal’s editors provided?
  • Do editors and authorship accurately reflect journal scope?
  • Is there sufficient variation in the editorial board and the authorship of articles?
Publication schedule
  • Does the journal keep to its stated publication schedule?
  • Does the publication frequency and volume demonstrate long-term sustainability?

In addition to the above, as outlined in the Collection Development Guidelines, review articles should generally contain substantive summaries and analysis of recent research in a field. Case reports should include thorough and detailed case presentations, as well as substantial discussions about the relevance to clinical practice and research. Protocols should provide complete methodological detail that allows for reproducibility, including sample sizes, description of materials, planned data/statistical analyses, and any ethical requirements.

Reporting Guidelines and Best Practices

There are numerous resources available that can aid authors and journals in improving article quality. As examples, some resources NLM encourages journals and authors to reference are:

For a more comprehensive list see the Research and Reporting Guidelines list maintained by NLM. This resource lists the major biomedical research reporting guidelines that provide advice for reporting research methods and findings. They usually "specify a minimum set of items required for a clear and transparent account of what was done and what was found in a research study, reflecting, in particular, issues that might introduce bias into the research" (Adapted from the EQUATOR Network Resource Centre). The chart also includes editorial style guides for writing research reports or other publications.

In addition, NLM expects journals to demonstrate conformance with established industry guidelines and best practices promoted by the professional scholarly publishing organizations, including those outlined under Publisher Practices.

PMC's scientific and editorial quality evaluation is a rigorous, multi-step process (see How to Include a Journal in PMC for step-by-step details) in which many factors are assessed. NLM views each journal comprehensively, rather than basing a decision on a defined list of criteria. Each title is reviewed by multiple individuals, both inside and outside of NLM, and final decisions are based on input from all these sources. To maintain the quality of the archive, NLM performs ongoing review of current PMC journals for conformance with these standards.

For an overview of the PMC pre-application requirements as well as a step-by-step breakdown of the PMC application and review process, please see How to Include a Journal in PMC.

Last modified: Thu Feb. 22 2024