Evaluating Publishers

During the process of publishing their papers, researchers often face problems regarding the right selection of a publisher. The right choice is based on criteria such as the publisher’s reliability, whether or not open access options are available and the impact on the scientific and research community with respect to different quality metrics.

Evaluating Journals

When researchers wish to publish their paper in a journal, they choose journals based on their impact factor, such as their ranking, the number of article citations and other similar indicators. Over the last years, however, with the appearance of predatory journals, the reliability and the integrity of journals have been questioned, especially at the open access journals, while there are some researchers who might be interested in the options available concerning the publication in OA mode.

Due to the initiative of some unions and organizations, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Directory of Open Access Journals, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), some principles of transparency and best practice have been developed to set apart legitimate and acceptable journals and publishers from non-legitimate ones. The principles are mentioned briefly below while more information can be found on the website “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing” by OASPA.

  1. Peer review process: the process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal’s website.
  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 all contact information on the journal’s website.
  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 to find for potential authors on the journal’s website.
  5. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information along with licensing terms shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site.
  6. 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 during research.
  7. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s website.
  8. Website: A journal’s website, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards.
  9. Name of journal: The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal.
  10. Conflicts of interest: A journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers.
  11. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers.
  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 website.
  13. Advertising: Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant.
  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 shall be clearly indicated.
  16. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities shall be appropriate, well-targeted, and unobtrusive.

The above infographic “Evaluating Scholarly Journals” from FrontMatter by Allen Press / CC BY-ND NC 3.0.

Journal Impact Metrics/Factor

When researchers publish for the first time and are not familiar with the journal of the disciplinary field they are interested in or they simply want to compare and be informed about some journal titles, they can use some journal evaluating tools.

  • Journal Citation Reports. JCR database contains data concerning citations and journal rankings and other metrics.
  • CiteScore metrics. It contains journal impact data (quantitative and qualitative metrics).
  • Scimago Journal & Country Rank

Evaluating Open Access Journals

If researchers wish to publish a paper in OA and they do not have enough information regarding Open Access journals, they can visit and consult the following webpages.

  • If the journal is included in the journal list of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ indexes high quality, peer-reviewed and OA journals and it excludes untrustworthy journals or journals that adopt misleading policies and practices for accepting articles and charging publication fees [4].
  • If the journal is indexed in relevant databases and catalogues, such as Web of Science, Scopus etc.
  • If the publisher is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
  • If the publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and abides by its practices.

This openness context led to the development of a guide to assess how open a journal is. This guide standardizes open access terminology as a comprehensive and easily understandable resource. The “How Open Is It?” Guide has been created by Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) in conjunction with PLOS and Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). It consolidates the key elements of journal policies into a single resource for every interested party and can move the conversation beyond the question of “is it Open Access?” towards a more productive evaluation of “How open is it?”.

Evaluating books

Selecting a publisher to publish a book can be difficult for researchers, especially if they do it for the first time. Apart from the guidance that can be given by colleagues who have already published in the same subject area, there are, also, lists and catalogues of books published by a publisher and they can be a great source of information [6]. What is more, researchers can take into account some of the aforementioned transparency and best practice principles that also concern publishers. They can check whether publishers are members of the above-mentioned Associations.

In case researchers have visited and consulted the sources and pages mentioned above but they are still not sure about the legitimacy and the quality of a publication venue, they can consult the Think.Check.Submit initiative. It is a tool that helps researchers recognize trusted journals and publishers for their research. This tool can be used not only for journals but for books and book chapters, as well.