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Open Access & Scholarly Communications

open access, ojs, Knowledge Commons etc. - research services for faculty

What is Questionable Publishing?

The ease with which Open Access journals can publish makes it easy for questionable and unethical publishing practices to also appear.  
These (and other) characteristics are often associated with questionable publishers: 

  • Authors are notified of fees after the manuscript is submitted.  Author fees are not clearly stated. 
  • Peer review process is not clearly stated or described on the journal's website.   Accepts articles with little or no quality control or review.
  • Editorial Board team members are not clearly identified with their full name, affiliation and contact information. 
  • Website attempts to mimic the name or website site of an establish journal. 

For more information consult the Principles of Transparency and Best Practices in Scholarly Publishing prepared by the Committee on Publication Ethics




Open Access Quality Indicators


Apply these indicators to determine the quality of a journal and/or publisher and to arrive at your own decision about whether or not to submit your article for publication.  Additional checklists and sources of information are available below: 

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 web site and clearly explained
  • Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifier, e.g., doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2011.00054x)
  • 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 UlrichsWeb, 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 web site is difficult to locate or identify
  • Publisher "About" information is absent on the journal's web site
  • 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 web site
  • 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, list-servs, etc.)

From Grand Valley State University Libraries,  Scholarly Communications LibGuide.


For more information

If you still have questions about an open access journal or publisher, please contact the liaison librarian for your subject area.

Evaluating journals

Check a journal on Cabells' lists - you can also check journal's JCR impact factor as well as its AltMetrics score.

Click the above logo to access a checklist researchers can use to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.  The campaign has been produced with the support of a coalition from across scholarly communications in response to discussions about deceptive publishing.

Other checklists and sources of information are also available and are linked below: