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URI Open Access Fund: Evaluating OA Journals

The URI Open Access Fund will underwrite reasonable publication charges for open access journals when funds are not otherwise available.

OA journals: quality and legitimacy

When deciding whether to submit a manuscript to an open access journal, consider both the journal's quality and legitimacy.

Quality

A common concern among authors is that open access journals are of lower quality because they charge publication fees. Actually, only about 30% of OA journals charge fees (though about half of all open access articles are published in fee-collecting journals). By way of comparison, more than half of subscription journals charge "processing fees of one sort or another" (e.g. page charges).

In fact, there are now many high-quality open access journals that are well-regarded in their fields.

As Peter Suber writes in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, "The key variables in journal quality are excellent authors, editors, and referees. OA journals can use the same procedures and standards, and the same people—the same authors, editors, and referees—as TA [toll access, i.e. subscription] journals."

Quality, however, is not the same thing as prestige. Suber notes, "If most OA journals are lower in prestige than most TA journals, it's not because they are OA. A large part of the explanation is that they are newer and younger. And conversely: if most TA journals are higher in prestige than most OA journals, it's not because they are TA. A large part of the explanation is that they are older or have a headstart."

In his guide How to Make Your Own Work Open Access, Suber adds:

"Don't assume that unknown journals are weak. Low profile does not entail low quality, especially when journals are new. And all OA journals are new. Most new journals, both OA and non-OA, face the vicious circle of needing excellent submissions to generate prestige, and needing prestige to attract excellent submissions. Don't fault a journal for being only partway through the process of escaping this circle. Even new journals excellent from birth need time to develop a reputation for quality matching their actual quality. When an honest, new, and little-known journal is struggling for visibility, you can help it escape the circle by submitting some of your best work. In the words of Harvard's Faculty Advisory Council on the Library (April 2012), 'move prestige to open access.'"

See the Guideliness for evaluating open access journals box below for help in evaluating a journal's quality.

Legitimacy

Apart from the question of quality is the concern that there are some so-called "predatory" open access journals whose "mission is not to promote, preserve, and make available scholarship; instead, their mission is to exploit the author-pays, Open-Access model for their own profit" (Jeffrey Beall, "'Predatory' Open-Access Scholarly Publishers," The Charleston Advisor, April 2010).

The Guideliness for evaluating open access journals box below will help you ferret out illegitimate journals; see also the resources listed in the Additional information about "predatory" open access journals box.

Guidelines for evaluating open access journals

Contact Information

Make sure that complete contact information for the publisher is available, including a street address, email, and working telephone number.

Attempt to verify this information.

Do a web search for the publisher and evaluate what you find.

Check to see if the journal has an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

Editorial Board

Verify that members of the journal's editorial board are listed on the journal website, with affiliations and contact information included.

Evaluate to what degree they are recognized experts in the field.

Contact selected board members and ask them about their experiences with the journal.

Author Fees

Determine that a standard article fee schedule is publicly available.

Investigate whether or not the publisher waives publication fees in cases of economic hardship.

Article Quality

Sample a few articles from the journal to read. Evaluate their quality. 

Perform a Google search for the titles and/or selected text from the sampled articles to make sure they weren't published elsewhere first.

Search for article authors in Google Scholar or a library database to see if they have written other articles and where they were published.

Contact authors who have already published in the journal and ask them about their experience.

Peer Review Process

Make sure the journal's peer review process is clearly described on its website.

Quality Filters

Check to see if the journal is included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Check to see if the journal's publisher is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publisher's Association (OASPA).

Check to see if the journal's publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Evaluate how well the journal meets the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, a list of criteria developed jointly by the DOAJ, OASPA, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

 

See also:

Additional information about "predatory" open access journals

Contact information

The URI Open Access Fund is managed by the University Libraries.

Financial support for the fund is provided by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

Reimbursements are processed through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

University Libraries contact:
Andrée Rathemacher
(401) 874-5096
oafund@etal.uri.edu

Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development contact:
Patti Correia
(401) 874-4576
pcorreia@uri.edu

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