Journal impact factors, publication charges and assessment of quality and accuracy of scientific research are critical for researchers, managers, funders, policy makers, and society. Editors and publishers compete for impact factor rankings, to demonstrate how important their journals are, and researchers strive to publish in perceived top journals, despite high publication and access charges. This raises questions of how top journals are identified, whether assessments of impacts are accurate and whether high publication charges borne by the research community are justified, bearing in mind that they also collectively provide free peer-review to the publishers. Although traditional journals accelerated peer review and publication during the COVID-19 pandemic, preprint servers made a greater impact with over 30,000 open access articles becoming available and accelerating a trend already seen in other fields of research. We review and comment on the advantages and disadvantages of a range of assessment methods and the way in which they are used by researchers, managers, employers and publishers. We argue that new approaches to assessment are required to provide a realistic and comprehensive measure of the value of research and journals and we support open access publishing at a modest, affordable price to benefit research producers and consumers.