Scholarly Publishing

Library of the Health Sciences

What does "open access" mean?

Most often, "open access" refers to journal articles, textbooks, or class content that anyone can access from anywhere. In other words, it isn't kept behind a paywall, anyone can download it for free.


  • Open access journals are often funded by fees charged to authors. This is because open access journals do not follow the traditional funding model, where subscribers (like universities) pay to access journal articles:


“The largest open access publishers, BioMed Central and PLoS, charge $1,350-2,250 per article in most cases”. However, UND is a supporter of BioMed Central, and so UND faculty receive a 15% discount (ask your librarian about this discount).


  • Open access publication is beginning to become an accepted way to fulfill the requirements of promotion and tenure. See this CFL page for information on the "UND OA Statement of Support", proposed and passed by the University Senate Library Committee in May 2018, and passed by Senate Executive on 9/19/18.


  • Open access journals vary in quality (just like traditional journals): some are reputable, some are insufficiently rigorous, and some are deceptive.2. (see checklist below). 



What "open access" doesn't mean:


  • Being open access doesn't mean a resource isn't copyrighted.

example: A journal can take an article for which it retains the copyright, and make it open access if they don't charge people for downloading it.


  • Being open access doesn't mean a resource has a creative commons license, rather than a traditional copyright license (though it is likely).


  • Being open access doesn't mean a resource is of poor quality (see checklist below)



1. Van Noorden, Richard. (March 27 2013). “Open Access: The true cost of science publishing.” Nature.

2. Berger, Monica. (March 22-25 2017).  “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Predatory Publishing but were Afraid to Ask.” ACRL 2017: At the Helm: Leading Transformation.


Deceptive Journal Red Flag Checklist

Look for these red flags when considering whether a journal is deceptive* or worthy of your trust, and contact your librarian if you have any questions!

***NOTE: Some untrustworthy journals are willfully deceptive, while others are simply of lower quality. Further, many legitimate journals may lack the gloss of more established and well-known journals. It is important to be aware of the resource disparities operating within the journal publishing industry, and the significant infrastructural disadvantages at which less monied journals, particularly those in the Global South, operate. Less than stellar English is not always a meaningful indicator, and journals may lack an ISSN, indexing, or impact factor, and still be reputable and legitimate.


1). A suspicious email soliciting papers is a red flag signaling that a journal's main aim is to make a profit, rather than promote academic research. Look out for:

  • unprofessional language
  • flattery and bogus personalization
  • promises of fast peer review and fast publication

2). Does anything about the Journal or Publisher seem misleading?

  • journal name suspiciously similar to another prominent and respected journal in the field
  • lack of full contact information in email or on website
  • falsified location- Look up the listed address on Google Maps and see if the publisher is actually located there. Does it look like a reputable location where a publisher might be located?

>below you see a that the listed location for the journal "Annals of Physiotherapy Clinics" is very suspicious indeed:


3). Does the journal or publisher's website seem unprofessional?

  • typos, advertisements, and dead links or sections that are "under development"
  • lack of an "About" section
  • excessive or aggressive advertisements, no stated ad policy
  • excessive use of stock photos, or suspiciously generic, glossy graphics, as you see below:

4). Is important information about the journal or publisher unclear?

  • author fees are unclear
  • no clear instruction to authors
  • no clear statement explaining peer review process
  • lack of information about the ownership and/or management of a journal
  • lack of statement explaining the journal's business model
  • lack of clear stated policies on handling potential conflicts of interest or research misconduct
  • lack of a clearly stated publication schedule
  • lack of copyright and licensing information

5). Is the editorial board reputable?

  • are the members of the editorial board listed, with full contact information?
  • are the members of the editorial board qualified?
    • Feel free to contact editors and ask about their experience with the journal and publisher.

> below you see an image of a suspicious journal's editorial board and an image of a college webite's faculty directory, which refutes the journal's claim that one of their editors works for that college:

5). Are the articles published in previous issues high quality?

  • look out for a large number of published articles written by a small amount of people
  • evaluate the published articles
    • Contact past authors to ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.

6). Is the journal searchable in major databases, such as PubMed and CINAHL? Contact your Librarian for help.

7). Look up the journal's impact metrics. Contact your Librarian for help.