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Evaluating Open Access Publications

If you have questions about publishing open access for the first time or in a new-to-you journal title, you're not alone. We've compiled some recommendations to help you find, assess, and submit to OA titles with confidence. 

Common Open Access Concerns

Reputation and quality

Is this journal any good? The open access movement has been gaining momentum for decades. However, concerns over the reputation and quality of open access works persist, especially as new OA titles come into the scholarly ecosystem. Many established, high impact journals now offer open access options, providing open venues that may have a longstanding reputation in your field. However, there are also many reputable, ethically run journals that have not yet established impact factors but are well indexed and gaining in respect and reach in their communities. These fully OA journals are often published by independent or emerging publishers in order to break from traditional models of funding open access, such as APCs, that are favored by the major commercial publishers. 

How can we assess the quality of an open access journal? 

  • Check to see if the journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)The DOAJ stringently reviews publications to ensure that they employ best practices in terms of journal administration and ethics. A journal listed in the DOAJ is likely to be a reputable publication. However, just because a journal is not in the DOAJ does not mean it is either predatory or poor quality since the DOAJ does have requirements 
  • Check to see if the journal or its publisher is affiliated with known and trusted scholarly organizations. Is the journal a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA)? Is it affiliated with a scholarly society, academic institution or library that you can trust?
  • Find the masthead of the journal and look up the members of the editorial board. If you are suspicious, look up the faculty or researcher profiles for the editors on their home institution’s website.
  • Check where/whether the journal is indexed (Ulrich's Serial Directory, Google Scholar, SCOPUS, Thomson Reuters, and disciplinary indexes). A librarian can help you to do this! 
  • If applicable, check the journal’s impact factor. Open access provides a citation advantage. OA titles, even published by independent publishers, may have an impact factor and a librarian can help you to look this up as well!
  • Read through past issues and assess the community around the journal. 

Predatory Journals

A predatory publication is one that charges an author to publish an article in an open access venue without offering quality peer review or editing services. Predatory journals mimic the Gold OA model, and may frame the feed as an author processing charge, but the journal does not practice ethically or provide a solid platform for reputable scholarship. ***We do not endorse Beall's list. Instead, we encourage our students and faculty to take a few moments to research and think critically about where they choose to place their scholarship, and offer advice about what to look out for and what to look for in publishing venues. 

Open Access journals should not automatically be considered predatory unless they demonstrate other concerning signs. Here are some important things to evaluate when considering any journal. If you notice more than one of these signs that may be a red flag that this journal is predatory or at least lacks a baseline level of rigor and quality for a scholarly publication.

Signs of a Predatory Journal

  • Aggressive solicitation. While you may hear from an editor soliciting an article based on a conference presentation or former publication or receive a call for papers/proposals by email, a journal that heavily and regularly  
  • You’ve never heard of it before. There are many reputable, new titles that join the academic publishing ecosystem each year. However, if the journal isn’t listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and you do not find the publication listed as a member of OA or publishing ethics organizations (like OASPA or COPE) it is possible that the journal is not a quality scholarly publication. 
  • You can’t find information about the editorial board, or they don’t seem qualified. Take a moment to look up the editorial board and staff of the journal and do a little research to see if they are well qualified to hold those roles. 
  • The journal touts bogus impact factors, such as the GIF ( Global Impact Factor), Index Copernicus Value, Citefactor, or the UIF (Universal Impact Factor). Impact Factors can be verified via a variety of reputable platforms, including Scimago, Web of Science, Dimensions, or Google. A librarian in your discipline can help you to navigate these databases. 
  • The peer review period is very short or non-existent. One of the most telling signs of a predatory journal is a lack of rigor in reviewing your article. You should expect your article to go through a process of peer evaluation and to receive comments and line edits from external reviewers and editors. Even if it is not predatory, a journal that does not provide this level of substantive review is not the best outlet for your scholarship and we encourage you to find a title that will help you to refine your work through constructive feedback. 
  • You are asked to pay before your article is peer reviewed and/or revised. You should not be asked to provide an APC or other payment up front. The standard process for academic journals is to assess payment after an article has gone through peer review and editing and has been accepted for publication. At this point, copyediting and proofreading may still occur. However, asking for a payment in advance of review or as a condition of submitting your article should be considered a red flag. 
     
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