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Quality Open Access Market – in search for Open Access publishing standards

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Problem of content quality is essential for scientific publishing. John Bohanon’s and Jeffrey Beal’s work have exposed bottom tier of Open Access (OA) publishers, without showing how good the best of them can be. Quality of the bottom tier is much more present in discussions on Open Access which remains in contrast to discourse on traditional journals, which is usually focused on the best ones of them. Majority of Open Access journals are relatively new and have not been able to elaborate significant Impact Factor (IF) yet (although OA journals with high IF do exists also). But, despite what some people may think, it does not mean that they publish worst papers. As Peter Suber claimed “the quality of a scholarly journal is a function of its authors, editors, and referees, not its business model or access policy.” Therefore we need other way of measuring quality than IF, and we need to describe broad spectrum of new Open Access journals, both this good and bad.

Open Access journals need quality control as much as traditional journals do, thus advocates of OA are very lucky that there is so many people who are interested in controlling quality of OA publishing. We might hope that this will help to keep this quality on high level. Quality Open Access Market is next, comprehensive try to elaborate some standards of OA publishing and a way to control it. It is an on-line service managed by SURFmarket in cooperation with Radboud University Nijmegen, created with involvement of broad group of academics. QOAM is just starting up. At this moment the most known journals has one or two reviews there and huge amount is not scored at all, so the service has no practical value, although I think it could be informative for us to keep an eye on it.

QOAM is author-centric, what means that it is designed mostly to help authors in finding the best journal for them to publish. The idea is simple: academics all over the world may score journals taken from the Directory of Open Access Journals and Ulrichsweb database (so the list is not exhaustive!) Registration is possible with the institutional account only, so QOAM has discreet charm of elitism. Score are not based on individual feelings but on standards, that are precisely described. Main part of them (called Base Score) considers information that are posted on journal website (e.g. do the journal website allows ratings of papers and post-publication commentaries by the community), which is complemented with based on authors experiences and more subjective Valuation Score.

When you have already chosen a journal and you are not so sure about your choice, you could check others opinion on it in QOAM (at this moment you will find your journal there only when you are lucky, but anyway, have a try). However you have to keep it mind that any standards are always controversial and that differences between fields of academic activity make it impossible to impose one pattern of rating. QOAM’s Base Score consists of few subscores and only the lowest one is counted to general journal Base Score rate. That is why, as system creators noticed “if speed of publication is less important in a specific discipline all journals in this discipline will produce a low subscore for the aspect ‘process’, which might be their Base Score”. I think that it is important to read carefully “about” and “faq” section and understand the way that QOAM works, before usage.

“In QOAM journals are ranked by default in order of their Base Score. So, a journal at the top of the list, i.e. with a high Base Score, has a web site that addresses all the journal aspects adequately. On the other hand, a journal with a low Base Score has at least one weak aspect, but may still be strong in other respects.” It is very important since this one low result could not be as important for you. It is possible to see all subscores after clicking on journal score card, so sometimes it is wise to click also at a journal from the very bottom of your list.

I think it would be interesting to see how strong will be future correlation between QOAM’s Base Score and its more subjective Valuation Score and how its vary among disciplines. It could tell us a lot about relevance of QOAM standards.

Despite everything, the most clever thing in my opinion is to not submit papers to journals which you do not read frequently. Still a reading is the best way of rating scientific content. So I think it is wise to find a journal (how? Have a look at this post) that you read with engagement and maybe even pleasure, and then, when you are about to publish something, search for opinions of authors on this journal (e. g. on QOAM). Maybe I think so, because I believe that reading is more important that writing, and maybe even more than searching for funding opportunities.

Edit: Richard Poynder informed me that Quality Open Access Market index two publishers who have had their membership of OASPA terminated after John Bohannon’s “sting”. Moreover one of this publishers is also mentioned on Jeffrey Beal list. Directory of Open Access Journals includes both of this questionable companies. Please be careful while choosing a place to publish. Anyway I still believe that QOAM is a move in a good direction and I hope that this case will be clarified.

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