Open Access (OA) publications reduce permission requirements and eliminate price barriers for readers.  OA allows access for researchers, teachers, journalists, policy makers and the general public without a subscription.  Many studies demonstrate that OA literature receives more citations than subscription publications.  Below are factors to consider when deciding to publish in, or be an editor for, an open access journal. 

Does the journal meet open access standards?

As with subscription journals, the quality of OA journals can vary widely.  Consider whether the journal is included in the Directory of Open Access Journals, an authoritative list of OA journals.  DOAJ journals must exercise peer review or editorial quality control.  You can also see if the journal is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.  Membership requires a thorough screening process based on the OASPA code of conduct for OA journals.

Is the publisher reputable?

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, maintains a list of questionable OA publishers and their journals.  Beall identifies publishers operating in a suspicious manner or taking advantage of unknowing editors or authors. Some of his choices are controversial—check the comments for other viewpoints.

An OA journal that is included in a major index such as Web of Science or MLA (off-campus login required) has been critically reviewed and is likely a reputable OA journal. For a list of recommended indexes in your field, go to the UCSB Library Article Indexes and Research Databases page and select your field from the "Resource by Subject" dropdown menu. In contrast, Google Scholar results are more likely to include poor quality journals.

Does the journal have indicators?

Indicators such as the h-index and impact factor (campus login required) can provide helpful information about a journal’s influence. If an OA journal is relatively new, you can evaluate the publisher by checking indicators for their other journals.  SCImago Journal Rank (SJR), Source-Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) and Eigenfactor are second-generation metrics that attempt to compensate for impact factors’ failings and are worth reviewing.  SJR and SNIP can also be found at

Is the journal indexed in an academic database or search engine?  Will it be archived?

Researchers rely on specialized databases and search engines. Check whether the OA journal you are considering is indexed in these. The journal should be archived, or preserved for future use, in case the online site becomes unavailable. Portico and LOCKSS are the two most prominent archiving services and are good places to determine if a specific journal is archived.

Can I self-archive? What are my rights?

Publishers’ policies and conditions regarding open access archiving (also known as self-archiving) and other rights and permissions options can be confusing.  Sherpa RoMEO, a directory of publishers’ copyright policies, lays out the details clearly.  You may need to contact the publisher about specific details. 

The Author Rights link on the UCSB Library Scholarly Communication webpage has information that explains your rights as an author and UC advice for managing your intellectual property.

Where can I go to learn more about OA?

The UCSB Library Scholarly Communication bibliography has links to basic information about open access and other issues related to scholarly publishing.

You can also learn the basics on Wikipedia, where you’ll find brief descriptions of the two main types of open access.  Your UCSB Library subject librarian and the UCSB Library scholarly communication librarians are happy to work with you in navigating these changes in scholarly publishing.


This guide was adapted from Chris Erdmann and William Jacobs’ A Guide to Open Access for Perplexed Researchers, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.