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Open Access: Assessing Publishers

This guide will provide recommendations and assistance in finding information about Open Access.

Creator and Author Rights

Undergraduate Researchers

Anyone who presents at a conference could receive an e-mail inviting them to publish their research. Unfortunately, disreputable (predatory) publishers sometimes send unwanted SPAM e-mails to conference presenters, including undergraduate students, who are not aware of the problems caused by disreputable open-access journal publishers.

Undergraduates interested in publishing their research in a journal also need to evaluate the journal to ensure that the journal, and its publisher, are reputable. There are journals that publish undergraduate research. They can be published by honor societies in a field or university presses. The links below provide information on college honor societies, some of which publish journals, and journals that publish undergraduate research.

Checking for Quality

It is important for scholars to determine the quality and reputation of the journals to which they submit their work for publication.  Just as with subscription journals, there are unscrupulous OA publishers who spam scholars via email with tempting offers to submit journal articles and/or serve on editorial boards. Read more.

OA publishing has undergone rapid growth in recent years, and in many cases OA publishers may be unfamiliar to scholars. OA journals should be judged by exactly the same criteria as any traditional publication, with a few additional considerations. Below are criteria for evaluating a specific journal, as well as links to organizations that evaluate publishers and journals.

Journal Criteria

  1. Caliber of the research published.
  2. - Read over a few articles to assess the quality.
  3. Peer review process as described on the journal's web site.
  4. - Consider contacting published authors about their experience.
  5. Composition of the editorial board and staff.
  6. - Are editors recognized experts, and are their affiliations provided?
  7. Ease of finding contact information for the publisher, including a street address and phone number (not just a contact form).
  8. - Caution that some unscrupulous publishers include a fake address or an address for a private home to deceive readers
  9. Metrics of quality for the journal (i.e. impact factors, article-level metrics, or other trusted measures).
  10. OA journals: Transparency of journal's policy on charging for OA publication, and the amount of the charges.
  11. Copyright ownership for published content.
  12. - Beware of open access journals that require all copyrights to be transferred to the publisher. True OA means the author retains their copyright via a Creative Commons or comparable license.

See this checklist from Think.Check.Submit. for other factors to consider.

Appraisal by the Industry

There are many organizations that vet individual journals and publishers, which may help authors assess legitimacy.
While exclusion from any of these services does not necessarily mean that a publisher is not reputable, authors may consider:

  1. Is the journal indexed in PubMedWeb of ScienceScopus, or other literature indexes in your field?
  2. Is the journal or publisher a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)?
  3. Does the journal have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)?
  4. Does the journal have an ISI impact factorSNIPSJR, or eigenfactor ranking? Beware of unrecognized ranking systems, often designed to mimic existing metrics. See a compiled list of Misleading Metrics.

Additionally, if it's open access:

  1. Is the journal included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or the Directory of OA Scholarly Resources (ROAD)?
  2. Is the publisher a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
  3. Has the publication been evaluated by scholars in the Quality Open Access Market?
  4. Is the publisher or journal included on Beall's list of OA publishers with questionable business and peer review practices? (use the search box to find investigations into specific publishers or journal titles)

Journal Selection Tools

If you have a question about a publisher or publication, contact the Library.

Lists and Resources

Beall's List and Beyond


This guide was created using resources from University of California San Francisco, Florida International University and Emory University.