Evaluating the Openness of a Journal

One of the most notable characteristics of open access journals is that articles are freely available to read. While that is an essential requirement for any open access (OA) journal, there are other facets of OA that should be considered when selecting a journal. By submitting to a journal that follows OA best practices, your work will be more likely to benefit from increased visibility and citations than from less open journals.

If you are unsure about how to get started with evaluating the openness of a journal, check out the HowOpenIsIt? guide. This resource from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) outlines the key elements of open access and shows how each element has varying degrees of openness. These elements include reader rights, reuse rights, copyrights, author posting rights, automatic posting, and machine readability.

Reader rights refer to how quickly your article is available for others to read. Does a journal publish articles as OA immediately, or do their articles exist behind a paywall for an embargo period of six months or longer? Also look into the journal’s policies on Creative Commons licenses to find out how your work can be used and built upon with proper attribution.

Another component of open access is author posting rights. It’s not uncommon for researchers to share their work on platforms such as ResearchGate, personal websites, or Pitt’s institutional repository D-Scholarship@Pitt. However, it’s important to look up which manuscript version can be disseminated. Journals with the most open policies allow authors to share any version of their manuscript (preprint, postprint, or the final published version). When selecting a journal, plan ahead and look up its policy on Sherpa Romeo or check the journal’s website.

The last two elements to consider are automatic posting and machine readability. These aspects play a significant role for increasing the discoverability of research. For automatic posting, find out if a journal will automatically deposit your paper in an OA repository, such as PubMed Central. Also, take some time to seek information about the machine readability of the journal’s article records and if they allow full-text crawling. These factors help determine how articles are indexed in databases and discovered in search engine results.

Librarians at HSLS are here to help find and evaluate journals that are suitable for your work. Reach out using the library’s Ask a Librarian form to schedule a consultation.

~Stephen Gabrielson