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Avoiding Low Quality Open Access

Avoiding Low Quality Open Access

Are Open Access publications high quality?

There are high quality Open Access publications and low quality Open Access publications, just as with subscription publications. Just because a publication uses an Open Access model, it does NOT mean it is of lower quality than a subscription one. Think of it this way, the journal has to collect money to pay its own bills somehow; Open Access and Subscription just differ in how they do it!

Regardless of the publication model, you should always evaluate a journal for quality.

How do I recognize a low quality Open Access journal (also known as pseudo-journals, unethical journals, or predatory journals)?

There are many red flags that you can look for to identify a journal as low quality. One red flag by itself might not necessarily indicate that a journal is low quality, but you may want to avoid publishing with a journal that has several. Here are some red flags you can look out for:

An unreasonably quick turnaround time:

  • The publishing process takes a while. After submission, articles undergo peer review and an editing process. This can take several weeks, months, or even up to a year before the article is published.
  • Be wary of a journal which offers a suspiciously quick turnaround time as they are likely cutting corners somewhere in the review process.
  • You can often find journals' average turnaround times listed in indexes like the DOAJCabell's Journalytics (UT Libraries does not have a subscription to this product, but the free version provides access to information for a limited set of journals), through some publishers' journal suggestion tools (Elsevier and Springer, for example) or on the journal's website (Wiley journal The Prostate, for example). 

A lack of transparency about their review process, article processing charges or copyright policies:

  • All high quality journals should be very transparent about their peer review process, article processing charges and copyright policies.
  • If you cannot locate these easily on their website, usually found under a "Publish" or "Author Information" section, then this might be a big red flag. 

Reputation and Discoverability:

  • Have you or your colleagues heard of this journal before?
  • Does it appear in reputable databases, indexes or directories like the DOAJ, MEDLINESCOPUS, or COPE
  • When you go to the journal's website, does it list the indexes/databases in which you can find it? (example: Wiley journal Cancer Medicine - scroll down to "Abstracting and Indexing Information"). Please note that Google Scholar is NOT an index, and if a journal lists it as one of its indexes, it could be considered a red flag.
  • Note, if a journal is new then it might not be listed in any indexes yet, so consider its publication history. If a journal has been around for years and is not included in these indexes, that's a red flag. If a journal was only recently established and has only published a couple of issues and is not included in these indexes, that might not be a red flag.

Look out for "Submission Fees":

  • Most Open Access publications charge article processing fees AFTER your article has been accepted for publication.
  • A journal charging a "submission fee" WHEN you submit your article for consideration should be considered a red flag. 

Be Careful of Soliciting Emails:

  • There may be journals that are interested in your research and reach out to offer themselves as a potential publisher for your article. However, it is also a tactic used by low quality journals to convince you to publish with them.
  • ALWAYS research the journal before submitting your article to them. 

Read the articles: 

  • Take a look through some of the journal's published articles. Do the articles have lots of mistakes? Can you find obvious flaws in their research, methodology or logic? Do you consider the articles already published to be high quality? If not, you probably don't want to publish with them. They might be cutting corners in the editing process or have low standards for accepting manuscripts.
  • If you don't like what they've already published, you probably don't want to publish with them now. 


If you are still having trouble deciding whether a publication is trustworthy and high quality, check out "Think Check Submit". This website has checklists to help you avoid low quality journals.



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