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Openness and the BTAA Geoportal

October 19-25, 2020 marks the tenth year of Open Access Week, an international event highlighting the potential benefits of openness in research and scholarship. Open Access Week is organized by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, or SPARC. To quote from their Who We Are page, SPARC “works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education.”

In the spirit of SPARC’s mission and Open Access Week more generally, I want to briefly highlight a collaborative project that the University Libraries is involved in and that also helps to advance the goals of openness for research and education, the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal. The BTAA Geoportal provides discoverability and facilitates access to geospatial information resources, including GIS datasets, web services, and scanned historical maps from multiple data clearinghouses and library catalogs. The resources in the geoportal are selected and curated by librarians and geospatial specialists at 13 research institutions across the BTAA. Our collective efforts as contributors to this project advance openness in a number of ways, but I want to call out three that I think are particularly important:

Open data – Geospatial data assets are produced and made publicly available by many different entities, at different administrative levels (e.g., city, county, state), and often through different platforms, across the region comprising BTAA institutions. By centralizing regional geospatial data discovery into a single interface, the BTAA Geoportal saves time and makes it easier for researchers, educators, and other stakeholders to find and use these data to advance their work.

Open collections – As research libraries undertake projects to scan maps within our collections, the BTAA Geoportal provides us with an opportunity to make this content more discoverable, accessible, and usable in support of research and education. In the words of our University Libraries strategic directions, it allows us to “open content for expanded access.”

Open educational resources – Finally, I want to call attention to one of the latest initatives of the BTAA Geoportal team, our first series of tutorials that were just released earlier this month. These tutorials highlight the BTAA Geoportal in the context of teaching and learning about topics such as types of geospatial information, finding and evaluating geospatial data, using GIS web services, and more. Licensed under Creative Commons, these tutorials are openly available, reusable, and adaptable, and we hope they will support the teaching needs of librarians and disciplinary faculty in in-person, hybrid, and fully online instructional contexts.

It has been extremely rewarding for me to be a collaborator on the BTAA Geoportal team and to participate in these efforts that help to advance a philosophy of openness in our work and in supporting research and education. I hope that you will take some time to explore the BTAA Geoportal to identify how these geospatial information resources might advance your own work too.

If you have questions about the BTAA Geoportal or geospatial information resources more generally, please feel free to email me at If you are interested in learning more about the ongoing work and progress of the BTAA Geoportal team, check out our five-year project impact report, which was released in May 2020.

Navigating the Article Publication Process: Evaluating Open Access Journals

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: 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. 


[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.

Navigating the Article Publication Process: Choosing Where to Publish

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

As you begin to navigate the publication process—whether you are considering writing an article in the future, have an idea for an article, or a completed article that you’re ready to submit—this post aims to help you find and evaluate journals to determine the best fit for your work. 

The first step in deciding where to publish your article is making a list of journals you are already aware of that may be interested in your work. If you are unsure where to begin, think about the journal articles you have found helpful. Where were they published? Do your colleagues and/or advisors have any suggestions? You can also ask your subject librarian for some recommendations.   

Once you have a preliminary list of journals, there are many factors that you can use to determine which is the best fit for your article, including:

  • Does the subject matter of your work fall within scope of the journal?
  • Who is the audience of the journal? Is this the audience you want to reach?
  • Do the types of articles published and article length guidelines match with your submission?
  • What is the reputation of the journal? You can look at impact factor or other relevant metrics to help determine this.
  • Are articles in the journal peer-reviewed? Are the policies about peer-review clear?
  • Does the journal have an ISSN, and do articles have DOIs?
  • What are the journal’s copyright policies? Are there fees to publish?
  • How long do submissions usually take to be published?
  • Is the journal indexed or abstracted in a service that you use (for example: EBSCO, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Scopus, Web of Science, or PubMed)?

List adapted from Research Guides@Tufts’ Identify and Evaluate Journals.

It is helpful to think about where you might like to publish your work as early in the process as possible. This will allow you to tailor the style of your writing and format of your article to meet the journal’s specifications, which are usually available on the journal’s website—a section usually called “author guidelines” is a good place to begin.

Once you have a particular publication in mind, consider writing a pre-submission inquiry to the editors to gauge their interest in publishing your work. A pre-submission inquiry can save you time and effort, since you will have received feedback about whether the editors are likely to consider your article for publication before you have tailored it to that specific journal. If they let you know your work isn’t a good fit, you can aim to publish elsewhere, and adapt your style and format to that journal’s specifications. Not all journals accept pre-submission inquiries, but, if they do, there may be instructions for you to follow on the journal’s website. Make sure to adhere to any stated guidelines to make a professional impression as well as to receive the quickest possible response to your inquiry from the journal.

A typical pre-submission inquiry letter includes:

  • A greeting
  • A paragraph letting them know you’re writing to ask whether your article is a good fit for this journal. Be sure to use the journal’s name to demonstrate your investment in this particular publication and show that you’re not simply copying and pasting a form letter to many publications. Also include your reasons for believing your work is a good fit. For instance, you might address how your work falls within the stated scope of the journal. 
  • A closing
  • An attachment: at minimum, include the title and abstract of your article. If you have a full manuscript already prepared, you can also send it.

If you have questions about navigating the article publishing process, you can check out our research guide, contact a subject librarian, or send us an email: We are always happy to help! 

Please check back for upcoming blog posts in this series. The next post will cover evaluating open access journals, including discussion about predatory publishing and characteristics of reputable publishers and journals.

New Research Guide: Navigating the Article Publication Process

Publishing and Repository Services and Copyright Services have worked together to develop a research guide on navigating the article publishing process. The information outlined in the guide as well as the resources it points will help you:

  • Choose where to publish your work: This section gives tips to help you make an informed decision about where to publish your work.
  • Evaluate Open Access journals: This section goes into detail about steps you can take to evaluate OA journals and avoid predatory publishers.
  • Recognize your rights as an author: This section addresses authorship and ownership of an article, book, or other creative work under copyright law and Ohio State policy. Readers will also learn more about the automatic rights given to authors for the works they create.
  • Understand publishing agreements: This section provides tips for reading and reviewing publication agreements.

In addition to the research guide, Publishing and Repository Services and Copyright Services are also working on a series of blog posts that will provide more information about each of these topics. If you have any questions about publishing in general or copyright, please reach out to the appropriate unit.

Five Important Considerations for Mentoring Undergraduates and Young Researchers

This week we posted a series of blog posts from participants in The Ohio State University-hosted Summer Research Opportunities Program. If you are a researcher who would like to get involved with SROP and are interested in mentoring talented underrepresented students interested in research and graduate studies, please contact SROP Program Manager Dominiece Hoelyfield (

To end our series, we are excited to present mentoring advice and resources from Dr. Marcela Hernandez, Administrative Director of The Office of Post Doctoral Affairs at Ohio State.

Five Important Considerations When Mentoring Undergraduate and Young Researchers

By: Dr. Marcela Hernandez, Administrative Director of The Office of Post Doctoral Affairs at Ohio State.

During my journey as a research trainee, I experienced both great mentoring and little to no mentoring at all. The contrast and the outcomes of these experiences changed profoundly my self-esteem and confidence as well as my approach to mentoring others. You can learn more about my mentoring story here and here. I became a mentoring evangelist and talked to anyone who would listen about the importance of mentoring in the success of trainees and their productivity. This led me to my involvement with the National Research Mentoring Network and have participated as a virtual mentor and received training to facilitate mentor training workshops. We have a program to offer these workshops to faculty and postdoctoral scholars and we hope to expand it in 2021.

It is crucial that young researchers have good mentoring. As they go through their experience, they will make decisions about continuing the research path or not. Those decisions often are made based on the mentoring they received and not on whether they are capable of conducting research. A negative mentoring experience often results in the student concluding they are not good enough and decide not to continue in research. This is the wrong conclusion and an unfortunate outcome. A more accurate assessment is that the person who train and mentor them did a poor job, and the question of whether they are capable of doing research is still unresolved.

Here I provide a list of five things to consider for those who are mentoring young researchers:

  • Explain your research as you would to a lay audience. Remember you are talking to a non-expert. Avoiding jargon and keeping concepts simple is the place to start. As you train and mentor the student, you can elevate the level of your research conversations. A good mentor meets the student where they are and rise their level of understanding through the research experience. Resources about science communication are great to teach experts how to make non-experts understand what they do. Some resources that I would recommend are The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the AAAS Communication Toolkit, but there are many more a Google search away.
  • Align expectations. It is important that both mentor and mentee agree on what is expected from each of them during the research experience. Being explicit and clear from the beginning will prevent miscommunication and conflict later. A great way to accomplish this is to use a mentoring compact that is signed by both parties. There are many examples available online UG Mentoring Compact.
  • Explain research group etiquette and culture. As newcomers to research spaces, undergraduate students do not understand all the rules and customs associated with sharing space, reagents, etc. It is crucial that you familiarize the student with your research group procedures and policies. The culture of the group is also important to talk about and to introduce the student to everyone in the group. This will increase the likelihood that the student becomes a good citizen of the research space and that they feel comfortable talking to everyone in the group. The latter is important in case the primary mentor is not around when they need something or have a question.
  • Ascertain the student’s communication and learning style. We all have different communication styles and learn best in different ways. It is important that mentors of young researchers take the time to assess their mentee’s communication styles and inform them of their own style. This will help avoid problems with communication. Once the mentor knows how to communicate more effectively and what is the best mode of communication, it will be easier for them to adapt to what the student responds to best. There are many free online assessment tools that can be used for this. Some examples are Communication Styles: A Self-Assessment Exercise and Communication Style self-assessment.
  • Be approachable. The productivity of most students plummets when they do not feel they can ask questions without negative consequences. Working under lots of stress can also result in lack of progress. Thus, it is best to protect mentees from the mentor’s stress. Advanced researchers are busy people and have multiple competing priorities. The stress this causes can sometimes result in a negative interaction with a young trainee: stress is very contagious. Be patient and create an atmosphere in which students feel they can make mistakes and learn from them. Give them constructive criticism and treat them with kindness, but also be honest and make sure you hold them to high ethical and scientific standards.

Remember that not all students start at the same level, and that they do not all develop at the same rate. Do not fall into the habit of measuring every student against our own strengths. Ultimately your role as a mentor is to help your students grow and develop until they become independent. The more you invest in your mentoring skills, the more productive your students will be.

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