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Scholarly Publishing Toolkit

Scholarly communication support for authors and researchers, with information on Open Access and evaluating publishers.

What are open access journals?

Open access (OA) journals perform peer review and then make the approved contents freely available to the world. Their expenses consist of peer review, manuscript preparation, and server space.

"Open" refers to journals being online, free of charge to read and access, and licensed so that others can share and use the work free of charge, too. Attribution to authors is always expected; in fact, open licenses require attribution of a work to the original authors.

OA journals pay their bills very much the way broadcast television and radio stations do: those with an interest in disseminating the content pay the production costs upfront so that access can be free of charge for everyone with the right equipment.

  • Some OA journals charge a processing fee on accepted articles, to be paid by the author or the author’s sponsor (employer, funding agency).
  • Some journals have a subsidy from the hosting university or professional society.

OA journals that charge processing fees usually waive them in cases of economic hardship. OA journals with institutional subsidies tend to charge no processing fees.


How do I find reputable open access journals?

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative? To find out, check the following lists:
  2. Are the journal’s articles indexed in services that you use (e.g., Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo, MLA)? If not, the articles published in that journal do not reach most readers. (When checking these services by journal title, be sure you are spelling the journal title exactly as it appears in the solicitation or website.)
  3. Do you recognize the editorial board?
    • Have you heard of the editorial board members? And...
    • Do members of the editorial board mention their service on their own websites? Meaning, does the editor, on their own personal website or CV, mention serving in that role? If not, the editor may be listed by the journal under false pretenses and may be unaware they are listed as the editor.

For additional criteria to consider before submitting work to a journal, use the Checklist from ThinkCheckSubmit.org. And, please talk to colleagues about their experiences publishing with any journal. You may want to check online forums for reviews of the publishing experience with various journals, too.


Are open access charges (article processing charges) legitimate?


Yes, they can be. Open access journals do not have subscribers. Therefore, in order to sustain their operations, they ask authors and/or those authors’ institutions to pay an article processing charge. UT has a fund available to help authors cover these APCs. And, most funders--including the NIH, NSF, USDA, Gates Foundation, and many others--allow researchers to include APCs for open access publishing in their grant budgets. APCs are a part of the business model for many reputable OA journals.

But beware: Not all open access journals are the same. Do your due diligence and investigate the journal’s reputation (see above). Also, be aware of the varying costs of APCs across journals. APCs can range from $300 to $1,000 in the social sciences, or $700 to over $5,000 in the sciences. Several studies have estimated that costs for publishing a single scholarly article average in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 per article.


Are open access journals less “legitimate” than other journals?


No. In several disciplines, including public health, computer science, and evolutionary ecology and biology, one or more OA journals have impact factors that place them in the list of top 10 highest journal impact factors in those disciplines. (See Journal Citation Reports to find impact factors.)

Articles in OA journals that follow industry-set standards and guidelines are peer-reviewed through processes that match industry norms. Open access has to do with who has access to the work once it is published—not the process by which the work was evaluated or reviewed.


What about Beall’s list of so-called "predatory" publishers?


Beall’s list was the result of one individual’s views of what makes an open access publisher “good” or “bad.” Instead, UT librarians recommend checking lists of journals and publishers that meet standards agreed to by organizations within the publishing industry. Rather than use an old version of Beall’s list to find “bad” open access journals, the University Libraries recommend checking the membership lists of the following organizations:

Additionally, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a resource for finding fully OA journals that meet COPE criteria.

For more about evaluating an open access journal, see "How do I find reputable open access journals?" above.

For more about criticism of Beall’s list, please see Shea Swauger’s 2017 piece "Open Access, Power, and Privilege: A Response to 'What I Learned from Predatory Publishing,'” published in College and Research Libraries News (https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.78.11.603).


What are Cabell's Analytics and Predatory Reports?

 

Cabell’s “Journalytics" is an incomplete directory with useful information about many journals, including average review times, acceptance rates, and so on. Because it is an incomplete directory, it should not be used as list to check against. Their “Predatory Reports" are similarly problematic. UT Libraries subscribes to the "Journalytics" for the information it provides.


Is research published in journals that do not meet industry standards of a lesser quality?


Some authors unwittingly submit good research to “deceptive,” “predatory,” or lower quality journals. That does not make the research inherently poor. As Shea Swauger states, “Just because something was published in a predatory journal doesn’t mean that it’s false or poor research. Just because something was published in a prestigious closed-access journal doesn’t mean that it’s true or excellent.”  


What are the benefits of open access journals?

 

There are many benefits:

  • Open access can lead to higher citation counts
  • Greater visibility and higher citation counts can lead to a higher h-index for an author over time
  • Practitioners gain access to your research, so you can have a greater community impact
  • The general public can also access your research, which supports UT’s land-grant mission
  • Peer-review periods for open access journals are often shorter than traditional publications
  • Many open access journals do not limit the number of articles they publish each month, resulting in lower rejection rates and a better chance of publishing unusual or trend-defying results

If I don’t publish in an open access journal, but still want to make my work available to the public, how can I do that legally?


The majority of publishers give authors the right to self-archive their article in an open access repository, provided that:

  1. the open repository as an institutional repository (not something like ResearchGate, but instead something like UT’s TRACE),
  2. the version in the repository is the post-print (see this graphic for a definition of the post-print), and
  3. the repository version is under an embargo for 6-12 months (you can add your work to TRACE now and set the embargo to be lifted on a date you specify).

The Scholarly Communication librarian is available for consultations if you are submitting your work to TRACE for the first time.