More Help for Determining the Good from the Bad in Open-Access Publishing

 Back in 2013 I wrote an article on how to distinguish between reputable and predatory journals , and some recent developments warrant another look at this topic.  Since 2010, academic librarian Jeffrey Beall had been documenting in his blog Scholarly Open Access (commonly referred to as Beall’s List) about predatory open-access journals, where he maintained a list of potential, possible, or probable predatory journals or publishers. In January, Beall’s List mysteriously went dark with a “This service is no longer available” message on the site.  Beall has not commented to date, but his employer the University of Colorado in Denver issued a statement that Beall had made a personal decision to take the site down and that he remains on the school’s faculty.  While there is lots of online speculation as to what led to his decision to delete the list as well as no small amount of criticism regarding the criteria that Beall used to designate a journal or publisher as predatory, the deletion of the resource highlights the importance of knowing how to determine the good from the bad in open-access (OA) publishing.

The Directory of Open-Access Journals (DOAJ) is an important player in this arena, and they along with several other organizations have developed 16 criteria on which membership applications for their site will be evaluated, called the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing." These principles provide a good template for those wondering if a particular open-access journal is reputable or if it falls within the murkier category of a predatory publisher. If a journal is not included on the DOAJ  site, it will be important for you to determine if it falls within the realm of being trustworthy.  More information on each of the organizations involved with the development of these criteria can be found at

Principles of Transparency

1.    Peer review process

Journal content must be clearly marked as whether peer reviewed or not. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the journal's editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal's Web site.

2.    Governing Body

Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal's scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal's editors shall be provided on the journal's Web site.

3.    Editorial team/contact information

Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal's editors on the journal's Web site as well as contact information for the editorial office.

4.    Author fees

Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.

5.    Copyright

Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal's Web site, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.

6.    Process for identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct

Publishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal's publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal - the publisher or editor shall follow COPE's guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.

7.    Ownership and management

Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal's Web site. Publishers shall not use organizational or journal names that would mislead potential authors and editors ´ about the nature of the journal's owner.

8.    Web site

A journal's Web site, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards. It must not contain misleading information, including any attempt to mimic another journal/publisher's site.

9.    Name of journal

The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal's origin or association with other journals.

10.    Conflicts of interest

A journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated.

11.    Access

The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.

12.    Revenue sources

Business models or revenue sources (eg, author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal's Web site.

13.    Advertising

Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of ads will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting ads and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random.

14.    Publishing schedule

The periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.

15.    Archiving

A journal's plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.

16.    Direct marketing

Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.
Of course, you can also consult with your Biomedical Library liaison if you have questions about a journal or conference you are considering for publication or presentation purposes.  We are happy to help navigate these murky waters.