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Scholarly Communication: Journal Quality Indicators

A guide to issues in scholarly communication, including publishing, open access, copyright, and author rights.


A study done in 2015 found that there are around 8,000 active 'predatory' open access journals. Predatory open access publishing is a exploitative open access model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing editorial, peer review, and/or publishing services that are associated with legitimate journals. It is extremely beneficial to review and evaluate a journal before publishing in it for the first time. This section will help you evaluate scholarly publishing opportunities.

Cabell's Whitelist

Cabell's Whitelist is a guide to academic publishing, listing journal contact information, manuscript and submission guidelines, and evaluation metrics.

All journals included in Cabell's Whitelist (over 11,000 academic journals) receive a full review of the journal's policies and procedures, including peer review process, manuscript submission process, and publication practices. Cabell's also offers documentation on journals that have been removed from the Whitelist, allowing for researchers to make informed decisions regarding their publication choice. 

Evaluating Open Access Journal Publishers

Steps to help identify if a journal or publisher might be considered predatory:

  1. Talk to colleagues—if they haven't heard of the journal, or it's not reputable in your field, evaluate further.
  2. How did you learn about the journal? A lot of predatory journals send emails soliciting publications or request to join their editorial board. Beware of emails from “editors” aggressively seeking submissions.
  3. Is there an “author publication fee”, but little to no peer review or quality control?
  4. Is there a peer review at all? Is it a blind review? How long does the process take? If there’s no peer review, or, it only takes a couple days—be suspicious.
  5. Who is the editor of the publication? Is he/she active in your field? Is there an editor at all? Is the editor contact information available online? Review members of the editorial board as well. 
  6. Check to see if the journal is listed in the Directory of OA Journals

Resources to Help with Journal Quality

Sharing research results with the world is key to the progress of your discipline and career. But with so many publications, how can you be sure you can trust a particular journal? Follow this check list to make sure you choose trusted journals for your research.

From Grand Valley State University, these guidelines help evaluate open access publications as you consider appropriate publication venues, or invitations to serve as reviewers or editors.

While the rapid growth of OA has seen an expansion in the availability of scholarly articles, it has also generated no small degree of confusion within the research community. Many journals claim to be “open” while actually placing moderate or severe restrictions on what an author or reader can do with an article, for example. It has become clear that not all "Open" is created equal. The OAS Evaluation Tool provides independent, expert analysis of journal OA policies beyond just "is this article free to read?"

Article abstract: The scholarly publishing paradigm is evolving to embrace innovative open access publication models. While this environment fosters the creation of high-quality, peer-reviewed open access publications, it also provides opportunities for journals or publishers to engage in unprofessional or unethical practices. In response to growing faculty concern in this area, the Grand Valley State University Libraries developed and evaluated a set of Open Access Journal Quality Indicators that support faculty in their effort to identify the characteristics of ethical and unethical open access publications.