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Open Access

Learn what open access is, how to comply with funding mandates, and how to find and evaluate open access publishers.

When it comes to evaluating journals and publishers, there is no single criterion that indicates whether or not a publication is reputable. Rather, look for a cumulative effect of more positives or negatives.

You can use the journal evaluation tools below to help you assess the quality of a particular journal or publisher. You may also want to check the lists of trusted open access publishers on the OA Publishers, Repositories, and Directories page or one of the tools listed on the Find a Place to Get Published guide to find high-quality, reputable journals in which to publish.

Journal Evaluation Tools:

Book Publishing Evaluation Tools

If you are still unsure about whether a particular journal or publisher is trustworthy, then please consult the list of criteria below that can help you determine if a journal may have questionable publishing practices you may wish to avoid.

What is a Questionable Publisher?

Questionable publishers (sometimes called "predatory" publishers) exploit the Gold model of open access publishing by charging publication fees to authors while simultaneously exploiting their work by offering low-quality publishing services, making false claims, and/or failing to live up to the expectations of a legitimate publisher. It is these latter behaviors that mark a publisher as questionable, not simply the fact that they are open access or charge publication fees. Many legitimate publishers provide open access publication services for a fee (i.e. the Gold model of OA publishing).


Identifying a Questionable Publisher

Here are some warning signs that a publisher may potentially be questionable. If you're still unsure, check out the links above for checklists and other tools to help determine if a publisher is legitimate:

  1. Publication fees are not up-front and transparent. Some authors may not find out about publication fees until after their paper has been accepted, and/or the publisher may demand payment without any paperwork having been signed.
  2. The journal/publisher is not a member of a recognized initiative such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), or Open Access Scholarly Publishers' Association (OASPA), which all vet their members to ensure they are meeting academic and industry standards and providing legitimate publishing services.
    Tip: Check these listings to see if the journal/publisher is a member.
  3. The submission and/or peer-review process is not clearly explained or is exceedingly fast.
  4. The journal/publisher tries to affiliate itself with a more prestigious journal or brand, often by tacking an extra word onto the title of a more well-known journal (e.g. "______ Reviews/Advances/Reports/Journal") or making some other small variation to a legitimate journal's title.
    Tip: Check the website of the more prestigious publisher to see if the questionable journal title is listed, and/or check a trusted source like the DOAJ  or Cabell's Directory of Publishing Opportunities to see if the journal is legitimate.
  5. The scope of the journal is overly broad or contains unrelated subjects alongside legitimate topics.
  6. The journal falsely advertises that it is indexed in a prestigious service or boasts about bogus impact metrics (either falsifying legitimate metrics such as the Journal Impact Factor or made-up or misleading metrics such as the "Universal Impact Factor").
    Tip: The Libraries subscribe to Web of Science and Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, so you can easily check indexing claims there. You can also visit the Metrics & Impact Factors research guide to learn more about legitimate metrics or check this list of possibly misleading metrics from the Stop Predatory Journals website to learn more.
  7. The editorial board and/or list of peer reviewers is falsified.
    Tip: Googling names is a great way to discover whether the listed editors or peer reviewers are real people at all. Even if they are legitimate researchers, you can check their institutional profile or website to see if they mention their involvement with the questionable journal, or reach out to them for more information if needed.
  8. The journals are empty shells or filled with stolen, plagiarized, or low-quality articles.
  9. Copyright and/or author's rights information is vague or nonexistent.
  10. No archiving or preservation policy is mentioned to ensure long-time access to your work, and past issues may disappear from the site after a short time or without warning.
  11. Contact information for the publisher is hard to find or is unprofessional/non-publisher affiliated (e.g. Yahoo email addresses, residential business addresses, etc.).