Scholarly Communication

Information for faculty and administrators on academic publishing

Assessing OA Journal Quality

Open Access journals make articles freely available online, permitting users to read, redistribute or reuse content. Often the reuse rights are defined through use of Creative Commons Licenses.

New open access journals have been proliferating rapidly. Many are high-quality peer-reviewed publications. The low barrier to entry into the market has also allowed the proliferation of journals that engage in unprofessional or unethical practices. The following quality indicators are intended to provide guidance in evaluating publication venues or in responding to invitations to serve as an editor or reviewer.

No single criterion below indicates whether or not a publication is reputable, but the balance of positive and negative indicators may inform the evaluation. If further help is needed, please contact your subject librarian.

The indicators are adapted from those provided by Grand Valley State University Libraries.

Positive Indicators

  • Scope of the journal is well-defined and clearly stated
  • Journal's primary audience is researchers/practitioners
  • Editor, editorial board are recognized experts in the field
  • Journal is affiliated with or sponsored by an established scholarly 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 website and clearly explained
  • Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers)
  • Journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of articles at the article level (for instance, Creative Commons license)
  • Journal has ISSN (International Standard Serial Number, such as1234-5678)
  • Journal is registered in the Directory of Open Access Journal
  • Journal meets criteria for The DOAJ Seal
    • Content deposited in an acceptable archive
    • Content has a DOI or other valid and persistent identifier
    • Article metadata regularly supplied to DOAJ
    • Journal permits use of a Creative Commons License that permits derivatives
    • Creative Commons license information included with articles
    • Author retains unrestricted copyright
    • Authors permitted to deposit articles in an institutional archive without embargo
  • Journal is included in subject databases or indexes

Open Access Journals Generally Considered Reputable

Public Library of Science  Founded in 2000 by Patrick O. Brown, Harold E. Varmus, & Michael Eisen. Megajournal PLOS ONE accepts original research in all scientific disciplines, including interdisciplinary research, negative results and replication studies – all vital parts of the scientific record.

Elsevier's Open Access journals (Authors pay article processing charges, access is free to readers).  Heliyon is a completely open access megajournal from Elsevier that publishes robust research across all disciplines.

Springer's Open Access journals. (Authors pay article processing charges or their institutions pay membership fees, access is free to readers).

Wiley's Open Access journals. 

Sage Open (megajournal) and other open access titles from Sage.

Nature Communications (megajournal) publishes high-quality papers from all areas of science that represent important advances within specific scientific disciplines, but that might not necessarily have the scientific reach of papers published in Nature and the Nature research journals.

Scientific Reports (megajournal) is an online, open access, unbranded journal from the publishers of Nature, which publishes primary research from all areas of the natural and clinical sciences.

Negative Indicators

  • Journal website is difficult to locate or identify
  • Publisher "About" information is absent on the journal's website 
  • A single editor is listed and editorial board information is absent
  • Publisher direct marketing (spamming) or other advertising is obtrusive
  • Instructions for authors are not available
  • Information on peer review and copyright is absent or unclear on the journal 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 the same issue
  • Publisher has a negative reputation (documented examples in The Chronicle of Higher Education, list-servs, etc.)

Cabells Journalytics

Cabells is a curated list of over 11k academic journals spanning 18 disciplines, guiding researchers and institutions in getting the most impact out of their research. 

"Journalytics" reviews over 4,500 journals and includes impact factors. "Predatory Reports" lists over 14,000 journals with questionable publication practices, unclear peer review process, and other indications of a lack of integrity. Use Google Chrome with Cabells.

"The subscription of Cabells is vital to our AACSB accreditation. We have defined standards for journal publication quality. This is the largest database we are aware of for this type of information."

Bradley University

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