Open Access Journal Quality Indicators

Open access journals make articles freely available on the Internet, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text. Benefits of publishing in an open access venue may include:

  • Increased visibility, usage, and impact of your research
  • More efficient dissemination compared with traditional publishing models
  • Retention of some or all of your copyrights
  • Contribution to societal good by providing scholarly content to a global audience
  • Rigor of traditional peer-review before publication
  • Ongoing feedback through social media

The open access landscape is complex. There are thousands of peer-reviewed open access journals, with new titles emerging rapidly using a variety of models. While there are many high-quality, peer-reviewed open access publications, there are also journals/publishers that engage in unprofessional or unethical practices. The following guidelines are intended to help you evaluate open access publications as you consider appropriate publication venues, or invitations to serve as reviewers or editors.

Note that there is no single criterion that indicates whether a publication is reputable. Rather, look for a cumulative effect of more positives or more negatives. If you still have questions, please contact your liaison librarian.

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 society 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 Identifier, e.g., doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2011.00054.x)
  • Journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of content at article level (e.g., Creative Commons CC BY license)
  • Journal has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number, e.g., 1234-5678)
  • Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
  • Journal is registered in, Global Serials Directory
  • Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Journal is included in subject databases and/or indexes

Negative Indicators

  • Journal website is difficult to locate or identify
  • Publisher “About” information is absent on the journal’s website
  • Publisher direct marketing (i.e., spamming) or other advertising is obtrusive
  • Instructions to authors information is 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 same issue
  • Publisher has a negative reputation (e.g., documented examples in Chronicle of Higher Education, listservs, etc.)

Open Access Publishing Models

  • Open access journal: All journal content is available for researchers to read, print, download, distribute, or link to without fees.
  • Hybrid journal: Some content is open access, typically via publication or author fees.
  • Embargoed open access: Also called delayed open access. This is a subscription model that provides open access to content after an embargo period expires. For example, the most current content may only be available to subscribers, while the archived issues are open access.

For more information, contact [email protected].

The listing of Open Access Journal Quality Indicators was developed by the Grand Valley State University Libraries, and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

For information about the indicators, see Beaubien, S., Eckard, M. (2014). Addressing Faculty Publishing Concerns with Open Access Journal Quality Indicators. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 2(2):eP1133. 

Page last modified June 1, 2020