This post is part two of a series covering topics found in the research guide Navigating the Article Publication Process.

Alongside the increasing number of open access journals [1] has come a number of publishers, oftentimes called “predatory,” that many scholars want to avoid. Predatory publishing is difficult to define; however, broadly speaking, these publishers charge authors money to publish their work while not providing the things that are usually expected of a reputable publisher, such as thorough peer-review, editing, distribution to an audience that is appropriate to your work, and generally adding to your reputation as a scholar. 

In many ways it is easier to determine the reputation of an OA journal by looking for positive qualities, rather than negative ones. 

Some characteristics that indicate a journal is reputable include: [2] 

  • An updated/professional website
  • Produced/sponsored by a well-known/well-respected organization, association, or academic institution
  • Aims & Scope that seem appropriate for the journal
  • Information about copyright
  • An ISSN
  • Clear explanation of author fees
  • Clear author guidelines
  • Clear explanation of the peer-review process
  • A physical address, phone number, and email address for the publisher available on the site
  • An editorial board that includes the full credentials of its members
  • Published articles available to download that seem well-researched and/or written by scholars who are experts in the field
  • The journal is indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • The publisher of the journal is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)

It is important to remember that, while some or most of these characteristics are often shared by reputable journals or publishers, not all of them need to be present for the journal to be highly regarded. 

In addition to these characteristics of reputable journals or publishers, Think, Check, Submit, an organization that helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research, also created and maintains a checklist authors can use to vet potential journals. 

In addition to concerns about avoiding predatory publishers, there are many misconceptions about open access publishing that also relate to the overall quality or prestige of the journal. Some of these include [3] :

The majority of open access journals charge authors publication fees.

  • About one-third of open-access journals charge publication fees (compared to three-fourths of conventional journals).
  • The presence, or lack, of a publication fee is not an indicator of the quality of the journal.
  • If you are interested in publishing in an open access journal, there may be alternative sources of funding available to you. Some journals have a waiver option for authors who can’t afford to pay a publication fee, and some funding agencies that require researchers to make their published work and/or any supplemental data openly available also offer financial assistance to authors to cover publication fees.[4] 

Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality.

  • Whether a journal is open access or subscription-based, its quality depends on many factors, including its peer-review and editorial processes as well as those described above.
  • There are many open access journals with high impact factors, and, as early as 2004, Thomson Scientific found that in every field of the sciences “there was at least one open access title that ranked at or near the top of its field” (Suber, 2013).

Open Access Journals are not peer-reviewed.

  • Reputable open access journals put articles through peer-review in the same way as traditional journals.

Remember, even if you choose to publish your article in a traditional, subscription-based journal, you are often able to include your work in an institutional repository, like Ohio State’s Knowledge Bank. Making your work freely available to everyone in an institutional repository only increases its potential impact.

Evaluating and understanding open access journals can be tricky. If you have questions, please get in touch with a subject librarian or send us an email: libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu. You can also consult our research guide on navigating the publication process, and check out this additional blog post on avoiding predatory open access publishers.

You can read our previous post in this series about choosing where to publish your article, and please stay tuned for future posts on your rights as an author and publication agreements. 

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[1] In the context of scholarly publishing, OA refers to work that is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” In addition, “OA works to remove price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions).” See Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview for more information.

[2] Adapted from Paul Blobaum’s Checklist for Review of Journal Quality, Governor’s State University 

[3] These and other myths about open access publishing can be found in Peter Suber’s 2013 article in The Guardian, Open access: six myths to put to rest.

[4] In addition, the Ohio State University Libraries has recently entered into a Read and Publish Agreement with Taylor & Francis Group. This agreement greatly increases Ohio State’s access to Taylor & Francis journals, while also supporting Open Access publishing for Ohio State authors.