Evaluating Journals & Conferences

Publishing has undergone rapid growth in recent years, and in many cases scholars are unfamiliar with new publishers and whether they can be trusted. Open Access journals should be judged by exactly the same criteria as any other publication, with a few additional considerations noted below.

Use the criteria and appraisal services below to evaluate a given journal and avoid publications with deceptive practices.

Journal Evaluation Criteria

See the video from the non-profit group Think.Check.Submit. for additional evaluation criteria to the ones below. Find this guidance in dozens of languages from their website.

  1. Caliber of the research published: Read over a few articles to assess the quality and rigor of the research reported.
  2. Aims & scope statement - does it adequately describe the journal's objectives and help you determine if you should submit your work to it? Beware if the statement is overly focused on high impact rather than quality.
  3. Peer review process, author guidelines, and fees for open access publication as described on the journal’s web site: Check for integrity, rigor and adherence to publishing ethics, and beware of journals that promise peer review in one-two weeks. Consider contacting published authors about their experience.
  4. Composition of the editorial board and staff: Are editors experts in the field related to the journal, and are their affiliations consistently provided? Trust your judgement – if anything looks ‘off’ about the information provided, investigate further.
  5. Ease of finding information about the publisher, Who is the publisher and what is their stated purpose? A valid street address and phone number should be provided that represents the actual place of business (not a residence or ‘field office’ designed to misrepresent the publisher's location).
  6. Indicators of journal quality: e.g., journal impact factor, indexing by trusted sources, or membership in established industry organizations (see the Appraisal by the Industry tab).
  7. Copyright ownership for published content: Transparency about what rights authors retain or must transfer to the publisher. Open access articles should be published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Beware of publishers that require you to transfer copyrights upon submission to a journal.
Appraisal by the Industry

While exclusion from any of these services does not necessarily mean that a publisher is not reputable, authors may consider:

  1. Is the journal indexed for MEDLINE, PubMed Central, Web of Science, Scopus, or other trusted literature indexes in your field? Note that Google Scholar does not vet which journals it indexes.
  2. Is the journal or publisher a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? If they say they follow COPE guidelines, do you see evidence of this in the Author Guidelines?
  3. Does the journal have a International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) that can be verified in ISSN Portal?
  4. Does the journal have a Clarivate impact factor (subscription), CiteScore or SNIP, SJR, or eigenfactor ranking?

    Beware of unrecognized ranking systems, often designed to mimic established metrics. 

Additionally, if the journal is open access:

  1. Is the journal included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)?
  2. Is the publisher a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
  3. Has the journal been reviewed by scholars in the Quality Open Access Market?
  4. Is the publisher or journal cited on author forums as using "predatory” or questionable business and peer review practices?
Conference Evaluation Criteria

The scholarly community faces an increasing number of invitations to present at or attend conferences. Some of these are respectable, academic events, while others are misleading, exaggerated or even fake. The Think. Check. Attend. site provides guidelines to help researchers distinguish authentic conferences from ones they should avoid. 

Key questions to ask yourself about any conference include:

  1. Are you familiar with the society or the association organizing this conference? Beware of conferences that mimic other society names.
  2. Do you know anyone who has attended this conference before?
  3. Is it clear what fees will be charged (conference fee, registration fees, etc.) and would these be waived if you are accepted as a speaker?
  4. Does the website provide clear information about the venue, timeline and agenda?
  5. Is the Editorial Committee listed on the website?

See the complete checklist as well as the Conference Checker survey tool. 

Blocking Email Spam

Many publishers send frequent, unsolicited emails requesting submissions to their journals and conferences, often considered spam by the recipient. University of California policy prohibits the campus from being an arbiter of email content, however individuals can set preferences for which messages they wish to receive.

To block an individual or a domain from sending you email, log in to your UCSF Email Quarantine/Digest, select Lists, Blocked Senders List, then New. Add the sender email address or domain to be blocked. See additional guidance on avoiding spam.

Journal Selection Tools

See complete Steps to Finding the Right Journal from the Library, and try these matching tools:

Visit our Open Access Publishing page for more information or to connect with a scholarly communication expert.

Have more questions? Contact us