8 Indicators of a Reputable Open Access Journal
With the clear benefits of publishing under an open access model, such as wider dissemination and better visibility, it is no wonder that an increasing number of scholars are seeking to publish their work in open access journals.
Advocates of the open access movement purpose that open access, harnessing the latest information communications technology, is significantly advancing the communication and dissemination of science and research on a global level. Papers are immediately and widely available, with benefits for researchers in all parts of the world, as well as teachers and students, doctors and medical staff, and society in general.
However, open access publishing can present some pitfalls for authors. With now over 10,000 open access journals representing roughly 15% of papers published worldwide in 2015, selecting the right journal for authors to publish their research in can be a daunting task.
Not only that, some critics have called into question the practices of some open access publishers whose commercial agenda appears to outweigh their true interest in advancing the open access cause and showcasing high quality research (see here, here or here).
To help you navigate the world of open access publishing and identify the right open access journal for you, below are eight indicators of reputable open access journals.
1. The journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
This may seem obvious, but checking the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a great way to begin your paper submission process. Here, you can check the open access status of a particular journal as well as find other journals relevant to your research paper by browsing the directory by subject. Note that hybrid journals are not covered in DOAJ, which is limited to pure open access journals that publish under permissive Creative Commons licenses.
2. The journal is indexed in a major database.
Any reputable journal will be indexed by at least one of the major indexing and abstracting services such as Thomson Reuters’ services, PubMed, MedLine and INSPEC. For a full list of the major indexing and abstracting databases, please see our comprehensive guide here. You can also crosscheck database coverage via services such as Sciforum Statistics. Do not check database coverage on the journal homepage itself, as some journals may publish bogus information.
3. The journal publishes regular issues with a decent number of papers in each issue.
Besides indexing database coverage, it is always good to get a better picture of a journal by looking at some key statistics. To establish a regular readership, a journal has to publish a certain amount of content and regularly put out new issues. Look at the table of contents of the current and last volume of the journal to get an idea of how many issues the journal publishes per year, and how many papers the journal publishes in an average issue. Journals with a regular readership will typically publish 10 items or more per issue, and put out at least quarterly issues (four issues per year).
4. The journal has a reasonably-sized editorial board with a chief editor.
The journal should clearly identify an academic chief editor in its editorial board who is in charge of the academic standards of the journal. The editorial board should typically consist of full university professors or senior scholars from research institutes.
You may also compare the number of editors on the editorial board of the journal with the number of papers published per year. The fact that the journal has, say, 80 board members, but publishes only 15 papers per year may suggest that the editorial board is bloated and has more of a promotional than an editorial role. To work efficiently, an editorial board for a new journal should comprise between 10 and 30 board members. However, well established, large journals may have larger boards, typically divided into sub-disciplines of the journal’s subject matter.
5. The journal has a strong, well-defined editorial scope.
Good journals clearly detail their editorial process and have a clearly defined and reasonably narrow editorial scope. Look for the “About” or “Scope” page of the journal’s website: it should give a short overview of the covered subjects, usually complemented by a listing of the main keywords. Compare the scope of the journal with a few of the published papers. If you find papers that are completely out of scope, it may reflect low editorial standards or lack of enforcement of the standards of the journal. If the scope of the journal is excessively broad, or covering several disciplines that usually do not belong together, the journal may simply be trying to attract as many papers as possible, including substandard ones.
6. The journal clearly outlines their peer review, editorial and financial policies.
In addition to defining their editorial scope, the journal’s guide for authors, which should be easily found on the journal’s website, should describe its peer-review and editorial processes, and give detailed instructions on how authors are expected to prepare and submit their paper.
Importantly, remember that open access journals often rely on publication fees or “article processing charges” (APCs) to finance their operations. All fees and charges imposed by the journal should also be clearly stated.
7. The journal provides a publication ethics statement.
Another sign of a good journal is its publication ethics statement, which will detail ethically unacceptable behaviour, such as plagiarism, image and data manipulation, etc. and describe the criteria for authorship, rules relating to ethical approval of use of animals or humans in research, and instructions to register clinical trials. Some journals also include links to the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), or state their COPE membership.
8. The journal uses the latest information communications technologies.
Decent journals invest in their technology inventory to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated demands of their author- and readership. Make sure that the journal of your choice offers most of the following features: a modern website, clear design and easy navigation, an online submission system, search engine functionality, a dedicated page for each paper/abstract, journal- and article-level statistics (downloads, citations, Altmetric score, etc.), recommended/related articles, and email subscriptions.
Lastly, do a simple Google search of the journal to see how well it ranks. If it ranks highly, this means that the journal has mastered Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and, more importantly for you, you have a good chance your research paper will appear highly in search engines once it is published.