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Assessing credibility of journals and publishers

There are predatory publishers aiming to tap into the scholarly publishing and communications money flow. This is a guide for assessing the credibility and reliability of publishers and journals when publishing open access.

Trustworthy or predatory? How to assess an open access journal.

There are predatory publishers aiming to tap into the scholarly publishing and communications money flow. They are present within the business of books and journals, as well as among conference organisers and providers of services for research metrics (quantitative methods for evaluating research).

With regards to publishing, the predatory publishers mainly focus on appearing to be good options for open access publishing, since it is easier to make money from publication fees than from subscription fees. A publication fee is a fee that the author or the seat of learning in some cases pay beforehand when publishing open access, for example an Article processing charge (APC).

In all likelihood researchers will regularly face attempts by obvious charlatans, for example e-mail correspondence where a company would like to publish a short article as a book - for a small fee. However, there are other, much more skilled, predatory publishers in the market. Because of this, it is always wise to examine a channel for research output before deciding to publish within it.

As research data are increasingly considered to be research output in its own right, it is also important to be vigilant regarding publishing platforms for data.

Guide

There are a few steps to take in order to make sure that the chosen publishing channel is likely to be reliable. The guide below is primarily written with journals or publishers in mind, however the principles of it can be applied on other forms of scholarly and scientific communications as well.  

In principle it is important to:

  • Find and make use of quality control already carried out by reliable services
  • Keep a critical mind with regard to sources
  • Stay updated
  • Use own professional network
  • Use own judgement

Read more about critical assessment of journals at "Think. Check. Submit".

Think. Check. Submit.

Guide to assessing a publisher of books and book chapters:

Think. Check. Submit: Books and chapters 

In order to evaluate conferences, there is a guide called "Think. Check. Attend."

Think. Check. Attend.

Remember to:

  • make use of reliable services for quality control of journals and other publishing channels. For example:
    • Directory of open access journals (DOAJ)
    • Open access scholarly publishers association (OASPA)
  • not only rely on the journal’s own information or links
  • make sure that the sources used to assess the publisher are truly separate from the publisher, and not provided by the same underlying corporate structure 
  • make sure that the information at hand is up-to-date - sometimes legitimate journals are bought by predatory publishers

DOAJ

OASPA

Make sure at least one of the following four criteria is fulfilled:

  • The journal is included in the DOAJ index
  • The publisher is a member of OASPA
  • The latest issue of the journal is listed in an index that performs quality checks before inclusion, e.g. Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed. Such resources can be found among the library databases. Important: Make sure to check this in the service itself, do not only trust information given on the journal web page!
  • The journal has a Journal Impact Factor and/or a Scimago Journal Rank (which has not been discontinued)

The library databases

Listen to the professional network:

  • Have you heard of the journal, publisher or organisation or have any of your colleagues?
  • Are articles or books from this journal/publisher being read by your peers?
  • Do you recognize anyone on the Editorial Board, and do they confirm that they are actually on that board? Either on their website or when you ask them.
  • After reading a few articles, how do you judge their quality and the quality of proof reading, layout and such? Compare to other well-known and established resources within the field.

An abbreviated version of the guide

It is possible to print or save the page as a pdf by using the print option of the webbrowser.

An abbreviated version of the guide is available in PDF format:

Trustworthy or predatory? How to assess an open access journal

This information is factual only and not to be considered legal advice. Contact the university legal advisors at the Vice-Chancellor's office if legal advice is needed.

Vice-Chancellor's Office