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Understanding Research Publishing in Open Access journals

This LibGuide provides tools and resources that can help students, faculty, and researchers to navigate the world of open access publishing and identify the right open access journals.

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Health Sciences Librarian

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Linda Murphy
Linda Suk-Ling Murphy, MLIS
Health Sciences Librarian
University of California, Irvine
The UCI Libraries
P.O. Box 19557
Irvine, CA 92623-9557
(949) 824-6419
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Open Access 101, from SPARC

This 3 minute short video provides a brief history of why open access is vital to the academic community.

Related News

Open Access Review: Major Stories of 2017 -- Provides a quick summary of what has happened with Open Access in 2017. 

Reputable Open Access Journal indicators

Simply select one of the above tabs for tools that can help you to verify or critically evaluate the legitimacy of an Open Access journal and to determine if the journal is right for your research and publication. 


The objectives of this guide:

  • Help the UC Irvine community to understand the significance and value of Open Access.
  • Assist our researchers to navigate the world of Open Access publishing:
    • Identify legitimate Open Access journals for research and publication.
    • Learn to spot predatory journals and publishers.
    • Steps to take if mistakenly submit to a predatory journal. 


The short video below reviews  the process of evaluating if a journal is right for your research and publication. In addition, this page includes an easy-to-use checklist to determine if a journal can be trusted.


A coalition of scholarly publishers and associations work together to create a simple checklist (Think. Check. Submit.) to help researchers identify trusted journals for their research. Watch the short 2 min video for tips to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.


Ask yourself, can you trust this journal with your research?  Does the journal publisher research you would read yourself?


Do you or your colleagues know the journal? Can you easily contact the publisher? Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses? Are the articles indexed in databases that you use? Is it clear what fees will be charged? Do you know the names or reputations of the editorial board members? Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?
If you can answer yes to most or all of these questions, then submit!

NLM Catalog: Journals referenced in the NCBI Databases

  • One can search the database to determine if NLM owns the OA journal and whether the OA journal is indexed in MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC.
  • This page provides an example of a legitimate OA journal that is found in PMC and indexed in PubMed.  It also shows an example of a questionable OA journal with only selected citations found in PubMed and the manuscripts were deposited by the authors in compliance to the public Access policy. 

 The characteristics of a legitimate OA journal found in the NLM Catalog

  1. In: Index medicus: v15n1, Feb. 2014-,
    • MEDLINE: v15n1, Feb. 2014-
    • PubMed: v8, 2007-   PMC
  2. Current Indexing Status: Currently indexed for MEDLINE.
  3. Select NLM ID to check if NLM has the journal in the collection.
  4. Collection of the National Library Medicine
    • Status available

 The characteristics of a questionable OA journal found in the NLM Catalog

  1. For the journal, "Pharmacology, drug development & therapeutics" was found in the NLM Catalog, but it indicates that only selected citations are in PubMed.
  2. The journal is not currently indexed in MEDLINE. Citations are for articles where the manuscript was deposited in PubMed Central (PMC) in compliance with public access policies.
  3. To verify NLM holding status for this journal, Select the NLM ID.
  4. In the NLM Collection record, it indicates that only selected citations are found in PubMed.
  5. Location not at NLM and Call Number, not selected.
  6. Conduct a journal title search in PubMed.  One citation was found. Display the citation in abstract. It shows this study was funded by NIH. 

Is your Journal indexed in any of these databases?  Search in one of the databases  below ito determine if your OA Journal is indexed.

Reputable Journal Impact Factor Metrics - Use one of the metric tools below to identify the impact factor of an OA journal.


Web of Science (formerly ISI Web of Knowledge) - Clarivate Analytics

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

  • is a database of reputable open access journals in all disciplines.
  • Aims to provide centralized access to all open access scientific and scholarly journals.
  • Includes only open access journals which have applied  to DOAJ and demonstrated that they conform to DOAJ’s Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. There are over 9,000 journals currently included in DOAJ. 
  • Before sending your paper to an OA journal, be sure to verify if the journal is found in DAOJ. This database only includes legitimate open access journals. 


Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) supports and represents the interests of OA journal and book publishers globally in all scientific, technical, and scholarly disciplines.  Check here to determine if your OA publisher is a member and supported by this association. 

Recommendations to Identify Reputable Journals & Publishers

Overall Approach to Choosing the Journal 

  1. Have you heard of the journal?
    • Submit your research to journals that you would normally find interesting and relevant.
    • Reach out to colleagues and mentors to see in which journals your body of work will best fit. Mentors have an understanding of historical trends in the scientific community in general.
    • Ask Your Librarian to verify the legitimacy of the journal.
  2. Is the journal indexed in major databases and what is the indexed coverage?  
    • Search in databases such as ScopusPubMedCINAHL Complete, or Web of Science to determine if the journal is consistently indexed in the database.  
    • Look up the journal title in the NLM Catalog: Journals referenced in the NCBI Databases. If the journal is found there, you can review the detail record where it provides information about the journal and whether the journal is indexed in any of the NCBI databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, or PubMed Central. To learn more about the NLM Catalog, click the NLM Catalog Tab above. 
    • Is the journal found in PubMed CentralPubMed Central allows publishers to deposit their OA journal contents for permanent archival without cost upon application and fulfilling features of legitimate and respectable journals for two years of publishing. 
    • If claiming to be a legitimate OA journal, is it in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? This is a sort of “whitelist” of legitimate journals that must meet specific criteria for inclusion.  
  3. Does the journal include an editorial policy and the peer-review process? 
    • Be honest about the methodological flaws of your own work. It is unlikely that good reviewers will not identify them. If the reviewers do not see the same limitations as you have, this is a red flag that you have sent your work to a predatory journal. Be concerned if you do not receive any critical feedback and your article is accepted, as this rarely happens with legitimate peer review.
  4. Does the publisher ask the corresponding author for suggested reviewers? 
    • This is, in general, a negative feature of a journal, and implies it does not have enough legitimacy to qualify as an established journal nor does it have sufficient dedicated reviewers to perform the important service of peer review.  
  5. Is the journal transparent and following best practice in editorial and peer-review processes, governance, and ownership? 
    • Legitimate journals should have a robust list of policies and procedures on their website, including human and animal subject policies, OA license type (i.e.: Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0), conflict of interest, and informed consent.
  6. Are there clear policies on plagiarism, authorship, and copyright on the website? Red flags include: 
    • Failure to disclose information to authors.
    • Misleading or suspicious peer-review processes.
    • Inaccurate statements about editorial board membership.
    • Will accept any study including bogus "research" for a fee.
    • No written policies about retractions, corrections, errata, and plagiarism.
    • Requests that manuscripts be submitted by email.
    • Aggressive tactics to solicit article submissions. Send blandishing emails to scientists, inviting them to publish with them.
    • Promised rapid publication.
  7. Does the journal meet the standard quality of a journal?
    • Read the articles in the journal before submitting an article. Warning signs include grammar errors, poor quality science, a poorly maintained website with prominent misspellings and grammatical errors.
    • Is the name of the journal incongruent with the journal’s mission? Is the name of the journal excessively broad? Does the name of the journal make sense?
    • Is the journal's impact factor clearly stated? Is it too good to be true (> 2)? If not readily available, the impact factors can be found in the InCites Journal Citation Reports (JCR), CiteScore Metricsor the Scimago Journal & Country Rank.
    • The outlets are profit-driven rather than based on rigorous research/knowledge dissemination.
    • The scope of Interest includes a much larger number of topics than legitimate journals.

  8. Are author fees (Article Processing Charges) reasonable and are they clearly stated up front?
    • Article Processing Charges (APCs) vary by journals ranging from $300 to more than $4,000 USD. Click here for publishers and journals that offer a discount to UC authors who are paying APCs to make their articles openly available.
    • Do they offer discounts or waivers to early-junior author/scholars from LMICs who can’t afford to pay the author fee?
    • Can you find the publication fee easily identified on the website, or is it hidden many screens back with obscure navigation

  9. Was your journal or publisher listed in the Beall's List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers?
    • Do not submit your manuscript to any of the publishers or journals found in the Beall's list. 

Source: Hansoti B, Langdorf MI, Murphy LS. Discriminating Between Legitimate and Predatory Open Access Journals: Report from the International Federation for Emergency Medicine Research Committee. West J Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;17(5):497-507.  doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.7.30328. Epub 2016 Aug 8. Review. PMID: 27625710; PMCID: PMC5017830.

Communications from NIH & NLM

Statement on Article Publication Resulting from NIH Funded Research.

NIH Grants Policy Statement - 8.2 Availability of Research Results: Publications, Intellectual Property Rights, and Sharing Research Resources.

NIH urges grantees to publish only in credible journals, Global Health Matters Newsletter, November / December 2017 | Volume 16, Issue 6.

Continuing Steps to Ensuring Credibility of NIH Research: Selecting Journals with Credible Practices. Open Mike blog post by Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH's Deputy Director for Extramural Research, November 8, 2017.

Calling on librarians to help ensure the credibility of published research results
National Library of Medicine (NLM)/NIH blog post, November 7, 2017