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Buyer Beware: The Hidden Costs of Some Open-Access Journals

      At a recent conference for nurse editors, there was a significant amount of discussion surrounding “open-access journals.” The basic premise of open-access journals is that the author pays a fee to have his or her accepted articles published without restrictions to access. The journal is online and publishes the articles soon after the review process is completed. This tends to decrease the amount of time between the first submission of the article and when the article is published. As the author pays to publish the article, there is unrestricted access to the work. There are no subscriptions or memberships required to access these articles.
      Some journals such as Clinical Simulation in Nursing provide a hybrid option. Hybrid open access requires the author to pay a fee to have his or her peer-reviewed and accepted articles published in an open-access format. By paying a fee, there are no restrictions to the reader on those open-access individual articles. The journal continues to operate as a subscription journal; however, the option is there for authors who have funding to publish their work in an open-access format. Open-access articles are open to all readers immediately; all other articles remain available in the subscription only format.
      On the surface, open access appears to be a quick and convenient way to have your work widely available for the interested reader. As they say, all is not what it seems.
      With fees being exchanged to publish in an open-access journal, a new industry has emerged that is vying for authors' work and money. These are often referred to as predatory journals. You yourself may have been a recipient of an email from one of these predatory journals. Although the format may vary slightly, the e-mails generally begin by acknowledging some of your previous work and then they graciously invite you, the expert, to submit your research article to their journal. So far, things sound pretty good.
      This recognition of your work can be quite flattering and is what the predatory journals are counting on to lure you in. They may state that they are peer reviewed and often offer a very quick turn-around review time, in some cases 3 to 7 days. They may also offer an expedited publication date, often mere days after the review period. They may tell you that given your previous work, you are essentially guaranteed publication. They may offer to publish your entire thesis or dissertation when others may not. This is all, of course, for a fee, which may only be revealed after your acceptance.
      There are several things that the author can do to determine whether a journal is a predatory journal or not. Predatory publishers will tell you that they can go from submission to publication in approximately 2 to 3 weeks. This should raise a red flag. Some predatory journals indicate that they have an impact factor or are indexed in several databases. Indexing and impact factors are easily searchable, and if they are not found, more red flags should go up. Predatory publisher Web sites may contain prominent grammatical and spelling errors. Big red flags! Predatory journals tend to prey on new authors and researchers who may be unaware of some of the dubious practices of predatory journals; however, new and seasoned authors alike need to be selective in where they submit their work. Consult with senior colleagues about the best journals in your field.
      Librarian Jeff Beall began a site that has identified predatory journals. Authors should check this site to determine whether the journal they are submitting their work to is on this list (http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/). If the journal is listed here, authors should be very cautious and perhaps reconsider whether this is the best avenue to pursue to publish their work.
      As an academic faculty member, I recognize that with the push for academics, researchers and graduate students to publish their work, open-access journals may be quite appealing. I do not want to discourage authors from exploring legitimate open-access publishing journal opportunities; rather, I want to encourage authors to be aware that not all open-access journals are as they may appear.