Selecting an OA journal for my manuscript

Moderators: Mikael Laakso, Hanken University, and Pekka Nygren, Finnish Society of Forest Science
Reporters: Aitor Barbero López, University of Eastern Finland, and Ximena Silva Palacios, University of Helsinki

This workshop focused on identifying proper open access journals were forest scientists can publish. The workshop started by discussing the short amount of journals for forest scientist. Even though there are several journals for agriculture, biological sciences, or natural sciences in general, the amount of open journal for forest sciences is just two. One of these journals was initially free of charge however as it began gaining prestige it also increased its publication fees, to a point where they are increasing yearly. However, forest scientists often publish in journals about other topics as they might be closely related to those other topics, as pathology or virology journals. As an example, it was highlighted that 21% of foresters publish their works in ecology journals. It was mentioned that considering the need to have the research open to the public as soon as possible, even if a journal is subscription-based there is often the option of green open access, however, embargo times of journals vary.

Open access journals were the next topic of the workshop. Attendees showed interest in publishing in this kind of journal, although financing or the need of a fund was several times highlighted during the discussion. Nevertheless, it was also considered that even though having money for publishing may be a challenge, the open access system needs the authors to pay to be able to make it sustainable. Thus, unless the publishing system changes in the following years, the attendees agreed about the challenge of paying for publishing in open access journals in the close future.

The next topic in the workshop was about the criteria used by scientists when choosing a journal for submitting their manuscripts. It was concluded that most of the criteria used nowadays are the same that were used several years ago. The main criteria highlighted were the topic, which should agree with your research field, and the prestige of the journal. Open access has gained some attention during the late years. Additionally, attendees highlighted that publishing in a journal, which is not that prestigious is also good when ensuring that your manuscripts will reach easily to your target group. Thus, readability of your work was also considered as a very relevant factor. Another relevant part of the discussion was that although prestigious journals tend to take longer time to publish articles – some even being proud of this delay – there is the reality for researchers that need to have their work published in such journals due to pressure in academia. Therefore, one has to consider realistically how much one is willing not only to pay but also to wait for a publication, and this might mean that one has to send one’s publication to another journal that will not take that long in publishing.

The last part of this workshop was focused in predatory journals. One of the concerns was about the readers. Even though authors may know how to identify proper journals, readers may not be that concerned about identification of predatory journals, and may read their papers getting wrong information about a topic, and even sharing it afterwards. From the point of view of the authors, it was highlighted that it is hard for readers to properly comprehensively check the journal and ensure that it has nothing wrong. When discussing between having a blacklist or a whitelist of open access journals, we tended to agree on having a whitelist so that journals and publishers would aim to improve and enter this list, rather than having a blacklist and giving no opportunity to new journals to improve. For identifying good (or non-predatory) Open access journals it was recommended to check the Directory of Open Access journals (DOAJ), as well as doing a background check of the journal webpage and the editorial board.

During this workshop the criteria for recognizing the predatory journals was also facilitated. It was clarified that most journals enter at least one of the criteria, however this does not mean that the journal is predatory and rather one should check if several criteria are filled before becoming suspicious. The most relevant criteria were that these journals often have broad scope, spelling and grammar mistakes, they prominently display the index Copernicus Value, they offer fast publication and the publication fee is relatively cheap, they focus on authors rather than readers and the contact address is a non-professional one, as gmail or yahoo. In this last point we discussed that context has to be taken into account since in developing countries it is not uncommon to trust gmail rather than one’s professional email address, since these tend to fail and in fact even at the University of Helsinki this has started to become an issue because official email address has been malfunctioning lately.

We discussed about our own experiences on receiving mails either for publishing with these predatory journals or to participate in predatory conferences, which also happens. The modus operandi usually consists in sending emails inviting to publish or participate in events. One can notice that these are usually automated emails that might not reflect the reality of the person the email is sent.

Lastly, it was highlighted that authors usually keep licenses and copyrights when publishing open access, but predatory journals might ask to transfer copyrights. Then, we criticized the present state of scientific publishing  and how it has become too much focused on profit rather than sharing knowledge since at the moment many publishers gain double income, one from the processing charges and another from the subscriptions and that a new model for scientific publishing is needed urgently.

As last comments, we discussed about peer review and agreed that the best option to avoid racism, xenophobia, and similar problems would be to use double blind always; however, some of us believed double open could produce more nuanced comments and even create a dialogue between authors and reviewers. Double open can also help reviewers feel more incentive to participate since the research can be associated with their names. At the same time, this last issue can become a problem because the quality of the resulting article cannot be known and the fear to be associated with a potentially bad publication could deter some of participating in a double open review process.