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Identifying Scholarly Publications
Identifying Scholarly Publications

At some point in your career you may be solicited in a flattering email from an open access predatory publisher to send them your work. They will promise quick turnaround time and claim to be a prestigious journal and even include bogus impact factor numbers. Many of these so-called publishers are shady operations that are only interested in obtaining your copyrighted material and charging you a fee to publish your work.

Publishing with these presses can damage your reputation and/or weaken your portfolio for tenure and promotion. Think twice before agreeing to publish with them or agreeing to be on their editorial board.

Tips for Identifying Scholarly Publications YouTube (22 minutes)

What is Open Access Publishing?

  • Harvard Scholar, Peter Suber defines Open-Access (OA) literature “as digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” (this is made possible by the article being made freely available on the internet and the consent of the author or copyright holder.)
  • The Public Library of Online Science (PLOS) defines Open Access as “unrestricted access and unrestricted use.”

How open is it? A guide for evaluating the openness of journals.

  • From SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).
  • This guide provides a means to identify the core components of OA and how they are implemented across the spectrum between “Open Access” and “Closed Access”.

Why Open Access vs. the traditional publishing model?

  • Most publishers own the rights to the articles in their journals, so readers must pay to access them. Permission to use the article in anyway must be obtained from the publisher and usually involves an additional fee.
  • Even though access to the journals at the School of Medicine appears to be free from the library website, the truth is, most of them are not. The library usually does extensive negotiating with publishers to obtain site licenses to online journals for our campuses, and these licenses can be very expensive.

What are the benefits of Open Access Research?

  • Accelerated Discovery. With open access, researchers can read and build on the findings of others without restriction. (Meaning you don’t have to ask for permission to use – it’s unrestricted access and unrestricted use).
  • Public Enrichment. Much scientific and medical research is paid for with public funds. Open Access allows taxpayers to see the results of their investment.
  • Improved Education. Open Access means that teachers and their students have access to the latest research findings throughout the world.

Is Open Access free?

  • OA literature is not free to produce, but it is sometimes less expensive than conventionally published literature. One of the goals of OA is not to make scholarly literature costless, but to find a way to shift costs from readers which results in access barriers.
  • Generally, the cost is paid for by the author, the author's institution, or the author's grant funding source.

How is OA delivered?

  • Green OA - The author and publisher negotiate to allow a version of the article made publicly available through a personal archive, website or institutional repository.
  • Hybrid Model – “Pay to Publish” An article from a subscription journal becomes Open Access by a payment of a publication fee.
  • Gold OA – Open access literature is online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
  • NIH Mandate – Will become uploaded into PubMed Central system 12 months after publication.
  • SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) provides an author addendum that can help secure your rights as the author of an article.

What is Predatory Open Access Publishing?

Predatory publishers share several characteristics:

  • They engage in questionable business practices, such as charging excessive author fees or failing to disclose publication fees to potential authors.
  • They fail to follow accepted standards of scholarly publishing, particularly in regards to peer review.
  • They exist to make money by taking advantage of the "author-pays model" of open access journal publishing,* and have no interest in promoting scholarship or advancing knowledge.

*Charging authors/funding bodies to publish articles open access is a model used by many reputable journal publishers and is not the single factor used to determine if a journal should be considered "predatory." For further information, please review Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. Other collaborators in providing transparency and best practice in scholarly publishing:

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Prof. Jeffrey Beall describes the phenomenon this way:

"Predatory open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. That is to say, they operate as scholarly vanity presses and publish articles in exchange for the author fee. They are characterized by various level of deception and lack of transparency in their operations. For example, some publishers may misrepresent their location, stating New York instead of Nigeria, or they may claim a stringent peer-review where none really exists."

Predatory publishers may also claim to be included in directories and indexes when they are not and include faculty on their editorial boards who have not agreed to serve.

Predatory publishers began profilerating in the past few years with the increase in open access publishing, and we are now also seeing an increase in predatory conferences, some which choose a name nearly identical to an established, well-respected conference.

Journalytics notes journals identified as engaging in deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory practices.

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, had compiled lists of "potential, possible, or probable predatory" journals and publishers. As of January 2017 the list is no longer updated, but thanks to the Internet Archive his work can still be viewed thanks to the snapshot. More details on the end of the list can be read at Retraction Watch.

How Do I Avoid Predatory Publishers?

Contact your department's Library Liaison for a second (or first) opinion about the authenticity of a publisher or journal. We're happy to help faculty, students and staff identify reliable, quality scholarly publishing venues.

Think, Check, Submit!

  • There are reputable journals that are completely open or have open access options. But there are other journals you should avoid. Choose carefully.
  • Think before submitting your manuscript to an unfamiliar journal - - publishing in a predatory journal may damage your reputation and/or weaken your promotion and tenure portfolio.

Use the following checklist, provided by Declan Butler in Nature, as a guide for assessing publishers and journals:

How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher.

  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information, including address, on the journal site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
  • Check that a journal's editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of them and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
  • Check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees.
  • Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
  • Read some of the journal's published articles and assess their quality. Contact past authors to ask about their experience.
  • Check that a journal's peer-review process is clearly described and try to confirm that a claimed impact factor is correct.
  • Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals ( or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association ( [Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ and Cabell's; we don't advise using this as your sole criteria.]
  • Use common sense, as you would when shopping online: if something looks fishy, proceed with caution.

A more extensive ruberic for evaluating journals, the Journal Evaluation Tool, is provided by the Library staff at Loyola Marymount University and the Loyola Law School.

How Do I Choose the Right Journal?

Journalytics Medicine

  • With in-depth information on over 7,000 verified medical journals and 16,000 predatory journals, this curated database provides submission guidelines, detailed metrics, historical trends, and more. It helps researchers, librarians, funders, and administrators discover, verify, and evaluate quality medical journals.
  • Users can assess verified medical publications across 37 disciplines by browsing, searching, or filtering for specific goals. Every publication included in Journalytics Medicine has been hand-verified and evaluated using a comprehensive set of selection criteria. Journal listings include bibliographic information, submission and manuscript details, access model, fee, and reuse information, and citation-backed metrics providing measures of discipline strength, influence, and attention.
  • Each entry in Predatory Reports displays information on how to identify the journal in the real world as well as a comprehensive report detailing each violation that was uncovered during the journal’s evaluation. Journals are examined by Cabells review teams against more than 70 behaviors that contradict standard industry practices and are indicative of deception. Predatory Reports provides complete records of a publication’s behaviors broken down by level of severity in categories such as integrity, peer review, publication and business practices, fees, indexing, and more.

Not sure where to publish or what journals are available in your field? Interested in publishing across multiple disciplines? Check out Ulrichsweb, a global serials directory, which lists over 300,000 publications worldwide.

Ulrichsweb (Global Serials Directory)

Journal Citation Reports

  • InCites Journal Citation Reports

    You can access Journal Citation Reports (JCR), a product of Thomson Reuters,via Web of Science (look for the link JCR link at the top of the page). Published annually, JCR provides a number of journal impact measurements for journals in the sciences and social sciences. Reported metrics include Impact Factor, 5-year Impact Factor, Immediacy Index, and others. Since 2007, JCR has also included Eigenfactor Metrics. Learn more:

    Journal Citation Reports Training Videos and Quick Reference Cards
    Brief videos and information sheets - both available in multiple languages. There is also a link to live and recorded trainings.


  • A free tool created by a group of software developers, former researchers, and scholarly publishing veterans at Research Square to help researchers evaluate scholarly journals in which to publish with the goal to bring all sources of data together in one place to give authors a simple way to choose the best journal for their research.
  • Search, filter, sort, and compare journals from more than 46,000 titles.
  • Search by journal name, category, publisher, manuscript title or abstract.

Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE)

  • This service originates in the Netherlands, is free, and is funded by the Netherlands Bioinformatics Center
  • It is limited to journals included in Medline, a database published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine
  • Author’s enter the title and/or abstract of their paper in a box, and click on 'Find journals', 'Find authors' or 'Find Articles'. JANE will then compare the document to millions of documents in Medline to find the best matching journals, authors or articles.
  • JANE uses the Article Influence (AI) score that measures how often articles in the journal are cited within the first five years after its publication. These citations are weighted based the influence of the journals from which citations are received: being cited in an article in Science can boost a journal's AI more than being cited in an article in an obscure journal. For more detailed information, see the website.

Edanz Journal Selector

  • Edanz Group, a Beijing-based company that provides English language editing and support services for the worldwide scientific community, has launched a free, online tool aimed at helping scientists and academic researchers find the most appropriate outlets for their articles.
  • The selector tool works by comparing the author’s abstract, or short article description, with keywords from abstracts from a database of more than 28,000 journal titles.
  • Results are ranked by relevance, or an author can choose to filter and refine the results by Thompson Reuters Impact Factor (JCR), by preference for Open Access, or by frequency of publication.

Publish or Perish

Publish or Perish is a software program that retrieves and analyzes academic citations. It uses Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search to obtain the raw citations, then analyzes these and presents impact metrics including H-index and others.

Please note: You should take care when using this software because Google Scholar citations are not always from scholarly journals or books. Publish or Perish allows you to screen these out and recalculate so your numbers are not inappropriately inflated.

For more information about impact factors, see Measuring Your Research Impact

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