Most publishers own the rights to the articles in their journals. Anyone who wants to read the articles must pay to access them. Anyone who wants to use the articles in any way must obtain permission from the publisher and is often required to pay an additional fee.
Although many researchers can access the journals they need via their institution and think that their access is free, in reality it is not. The institution has often been involved in lengthy negotiations around the price of their site license and re-use of this content is limited.
Paying for access to content makes sense in the world of print publishing, where providing content to each new reader requires the production of an additional copy, but online it makes much less sense to charge for content when it is possible to provide access to all readers anywhere in the world.
Excerpted from the Public Library of Science. (2014). The Case for Open Access. Open Access. Retrieved from http://www.plos.org/open-access/.
1. If claiming to be an open access journal, is the journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? This is a sort of “whitelist,” and journals here must meet specific criteria.
2. Is the publisher a member of recognised professional organisations that commit to best practices in publishing? Some of these organisations are: the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE); the International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers (STM); or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
3. Is the journal indexed? Do not accept the journal’s claims about being indexed. Instead verify these claims by searching for the journal in databases such as PubMedCentral (free) or the Web of Science (requiring subscription).
4. Is the journal transparent and following best practices when it comes to editorial and peer review processes, governance, and ownership? Are there contact details for the journal and its staff (email, postal address, working telephone number)? Reputable journals have a named editor and editorial board comprised of recognised experts. Are the costs associated with publishing clear? Credible journals do not ask for a submission fee. Many bona fide open access journals require a publication charge, but this is levied after acceptance and through a process separate from the editorial process.
The Federal Trade Commission has invited faculty and researchers to help report predatory journals on their Complaint Assistant site. If you'd like to understand more about how such complaints can lead to action and even lawsuits against predatory publishers, you might like to read the August 26, 2016, article "Academics and scientists: Beware of predatory journal publishers" by Lisa Lake.
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