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Many new publishers and journals have been developed during the past 5-10 years to take advantage of scholars who want to publish their work in open access journals. Some of these questionable, less-than-legitimate publishers have set up journals to earn money rather than advance scholarship. Complaints that are associated with exploitative open access publishing, also known as predatory publishing, include:
- Accepting articles quickly with little or no peer review or quality control, including hoax and nonsensical papers.
- Notifying academics of article fees only after papers are accepted.
- Aggressively campaigning for academics to submit articles or serve on editorial boards.
- Listing academics as members of editorial boards without their permission, and not allowing academics to resign from editorial boards.
- Appointing fake academics to editorial boards.
- Mimicking the name or website style of more established journals.
Before deciding to publish an article in an open access journal, it is important to evaluate the publisher.If you have questions, please contact any subject liaison librarian, who can help you make a determination.
OA journal quality indicators
There are many indicators to help you determine the reputability of an open-access journal. Here are some important criteria, as suggested by librarians at Grand Valley State University.
- Scope of the journal is well-defined and clearly stated.
- Journal’s primary audience is researchers/practitioners.
- Editor and/or editorial board are recognized experts in the field.
- Journal is affiliated with or sponsored by an established scholarly society or academic institution.
- Articles are within the scope of the journal and meet the standards of the discipline.
- Any fees or charges for publishing in the journal are easily found on the journal web site and clearly explained.
- Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifier, e.g., doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2011.00054.x).
- Journal clearly indicates rights for use and reuse of content at article level (e.g., Creative Commons CC BY license).
- Journal has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number, e.g., 1234-5678).
- Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.
- Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
- Journal is included in subject databases and/or indexes.
- Journal web site is difficult to locate or identify.
- Publisher “About” information is absent on the journal’s website.
- Publisher direct marketing (i.e., spamming) or other advertising is obtrusive.
- "Instructions to authors" information is not available.
- Information on peer review and copyright is absent or unclear on the journal's website.
- Journal scope statement is absent or extremely vague.
- No information is provided about the publisher, or the information provided does not clearly indicate a relationship to a mission to disseminate research content.
- Repeat lead authors in same issue.
- Publisher has a negative reputation (e.g., documented examples in Chronicle of Higher Education, email distribution lists, etc.).
Questions to ask
- Is the publisher's or journal's website well-written or are there obvious grammatical and spelling errors? While some publishers give an address in the United States or Europe, the language used on the web site may not conform to proper English-language usage.
- What do you find when you search for information about the publisher on the Web? A search for some publisher names and the word complaint, fraud, scam, rip-off or similar terms sometimes yields blog postings or other complaints about the publisher. Some predatory open access publishers even have poor ratings from the Better Business Bureau!
- Where is the journal indexed? If articles in a journal can only be found by using a search engine (e.g. Google Scholar), it may be difficult for other researchers to find your article.
- Does the journal state that it is affiliated with a scholarly organization, society or university? Look up that organization or university to see if they actually exist.
- Who is on the editorial board? Contact one of the editorial board members to ask about the journal and their experience and/or affiliation with it. Some scam journals have put well known scholars on their "editorial board" without the scholars' knowledge.
- If a journal states that it is affiliated with a university, check the university’s website. Does that university offer a major in that field? Just as some members of journal editorial boards may not have given permission for their name to be used, a university that is listed as an affiliate may or may not have given permission for its name to be used on that journal's website.
- What is the nature of the journal’s peer review process? Are authors asked to suggest names of potential reviewers or does the editor identify and choose potential peer reviewers (blind peer review)? Some questionable journal publishers asks authors to suggest potential reviewers. Ideally, to avoid bias, peer review should be blind -- the author should not know the names of reviewers.
- Look at the articles published in several issues of a journal:
- Are the articles written by a number of different authors or are there a number of articles by a single author? One journal from a predatory publisher had 4 articles in the current (and only) issue, three of which had been written by the same author.
- Do you know any of the authors? If so, contact them to find out why they chose that journal. If not, check to see what other articles they have written by searching for their name in a subject index or database. If you cannot find any other articles they have written, try searching for them in Google Scholar or Google.
- Look at the articles that have been published in your field. Do they make any sense? Some articles in open access journals were clearly written by novices who have no expertise in a particular subject area.
Places to look for help
The Directory of Open Access Journals is a searchable index of open access journals. DOAJ recently announced that it was tightening its criteria for inclusion.
The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association is a trade association that represents the interests of legitimate OA publishers. OASPA has membership criteria that can be useful in helping to determine the reputability of a publisher.
The Directory of Open Access Books lists OA book publishers that meet their quality-control criteria.
Think Check Submit
A simple checklist researchers can use to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.
Quality Open Access Market. QOAM is a market place for scientific and scholarly journals which publish articles in open access. Quality scoring of the journals in QOAM is based on academic crowd sourcing; price information includes institutional licensed pricing.
Predatory Publishing in the News