Open Access Journals: Be Careful

Nurse writers want a readership. Whether you are a scholarly writer disseminating research discoveries or a policy and editorial writer influencing opinion or a personal writer seeking kindred spirits, you want readers. Open access (sometimes called OA) publishing, which turns publishing’s funding model on its head, might seem a good solution. But be careful.

In ordinary publishing, a journal is funded by subscribers (either individual or institutional) and by advertisers. Only subscribers have access to the journal. In contrast, OA  journals require an up-front subvention payment by the author, who is funding the journal’s operation, providing open access to the contents of the journal to all readers.

In the best of all possible worlds, a researcher’s grant funding provides for dissemination costs or the researcher’s home institution funds the dissemination, so the researcher does not have to pay out of pocket.

However, in the brave new world of online publishing, it’s a jungle out there, and there are predators that you need to look out for.

First, as you can imagine, there is an economic incentive for an OA  journal publisher to accept your manuscript. Accepting your manuscript is a funding source for the OA journal. Unscrupulous OA journals might not exercise the same diligence in peer review as subscription-funded journals, which rely on subscribers’ trust in the quality and relevance of the articles published.

Second, some OA journals are parts of huge money-making schemes in which an online company suddenly produces scores or even hundreds of OA journals. In some cases, one editor is identified on the masthead as editor of half a dozen (or more) journals. These journals and their publishers use email marketing (spam) to entice writers, but like other email marketing schemes, unscrupulous or predatory OA journals are just interested in getting you to buy their service: publishing your manuscript. Some even add notable names to their editorial boards without the permission of the researchers named!

Third, how will readers find your article unless it’s indexed by the major indexers? Check to determine who indexes the OA journal you are considering.

So how do you tell the good from the bad? Do due diligence and scrutinize new OA journals carefully. Do you recognize the name of the editor? Do you know members of the editorial board? Do you recognize the names of authors published in the journal? Contact them to find out more about the journal. In addition, consult online sources to assess the legitimacy of the journal.

Start with Jeffrey Beall’s Scholarly Open Access blog http://scholarlyoa.com/ and check his lists of publishers and journals. If a publisher or a journal is on his list, you probably do not want to submit a manuscript to it. Then consult the Directory of Open Access Journals http://www.doaj.org/ and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association http://oaspa.org/ (but keep in mind that the latter is a professional organization — just because a local business belongs to the Better Business Bureau doesn’t make it a better business).

Nurse writers have important, life and health improving observations to make. OA publishing may be a way to reach a wide audience. But exercise care before submitting a manuscript to an OA journal.

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