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English Open Access

How to choose an Open Access journal

Peer review, impact factor, open access funding requirements: We help you to find the journal that fits your needs.

Researchers are too familiar with the pressure to either publish their work quickly or loose traction and eventually perish from academia. Non-tenured scholars are especially exposed to this situation since they are employed on temporary conditions. Successful reapplication to another grant, another project, another post-doc position is tied to a convincing performance that includes publications in high ranking journals. In addition, publishing open access has become an increasingly important funders‘ requirement. This step poses extra challenges for scholars who often need to research a journal’s open access policy before they can start the application process.

We help you to navigate the world of publishing and guide you how to choose the right journal.

List of databases for open access journals

Some practical information first. We suggest you to search for open access journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). However, if you already have a well-known subscription based journal in mind or if you simply want to take a look at the conditions on to how to res-use publications of various journals, we recommend you to use the database Sherpa RoMEO.

Make sure to check out the tool oa.finder by open-access.network. It is a great tool to search for publication funds and open access transformation-contracts available at your university or institution.

Another helpful tool to come is the open catalog system OpenAlex. It will let you search for papers, journals, researchers and institutions and will allow you to see the connections between them.

But let’s take a step back. Why are these services helpful? To understand that, we have to understand the entanglements of peer review, impact factor, and open access funding requirements.

How to measure a journal’s reputation

PhD publishing requirements often already include article placements in considerably high ranking, peer-reviewed journals. Such rankings traditionally focus on empirical aspects. Among them, the predominantly used Journal Impact Factor (JIF) lists journals based on the amount of citations in a given year, calculated in relation to the publication count in the previous two years. Developed by Eugene Garfield, the impact factor does not intend to measure the quality of a journal. In reality however, a journal with a high impact factor will be guaranteed to have a high reputation.

Longstanding criticism from various parts of the scholarly community has yet to demonstrate how to change the power dynamics in publishing by providing alternative quality measurements.

While the databases mentioned above are attempts to establish such alternative measurements, we suggest you to filter for a journal’s reputation by making use of the Web of Science’s Journal Citations Report (Clarivate). Since the Web of Science is still one of the most established sources for bibliometrics measurements, you should take a look at it. Its feature to filter for open access gives you an overview of best ranking journals listed in the database.

Reputation and the open access transformation

More and more, funding requirements demand scholars to publish open access (golden road) or self-archive the publication within a certain period in an institutional repository (green road). Check your funding contract for details.

Don’t miss our article on gold and green open access.

The Green Road

If your funder allows green open access, you can publish in a traditional closed access-journal and look for options to publish a reprint of your article in a repository.

A repository is an archiving/publishing platform that is usually backed by a university or a research institution. Repositories provide free and long-term access to publications, indexing the publications in international databases and library catalogues. Does your institution have a repository?

The Golden Road

You might have heard of high Article Processing Charges (APCs) in order to publish gold open access. Paired with the phenomena ‚publish or perish‘, entry-level as well as less-institutionally backed researchers are in an especially precarious situation.

The situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. In a recent DFG-report, the German Research Foundation (DFG), Germany’s biggest funding organisation for the arts and sciences, now clearly addresses the problematic developments of commercial open access. The report calls for support of scientists and the reevaluation of scientific measures of quality.

This step cannot be underestimated. There are alternatives to commercial open access.

Start with our list of databases above!

When publishing in an established open access journal, rest assure: Your content and figures …

  • are easy to be accessed globally,
  • are copy-right protected by Creative Commons-licenses, with a trend torwards CC-BY 4.0,
  • or are similarly licensed so there is clarity on how to reuse the published material,
  • and will enhance your individual metrics, e.g. by carrying a Digital Object Finder (DOI).

The Fokusgruppe scholar-led.network advocates for independent, non-profit open access in countries like Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Read their manifest online.

We know, the relevance of the impact factor still forces scholars to publish in specific journals. Universities often have reached their limits to cover the publication costs that commercial open access providers demand. You might very well know the phenomena that your institution had to stop provide access to an important corporate database or a journal subscription.

There is no need to deny: Alternative publishing models require structural changes as well as lived practice. Let’s start with educating one another: This is our guide for you on how to choose the right open access journal.

With entries in the Critical Dictionary of open access, we begin the discussion on the challenges and opportunities behind the term open access. This is one such entry.