Open access and impact factors – all your questions answered

Do open access journals have Impact Factors? Are open access journals high quality? And are Impact Factors the only way of assessing a journal’s quality? These are some of the key questions researchers ask about publishing open access.  

And it’s no surprise these questions are on researchers’ minds. More and more funders now require open access publication of research, and the number of open access journals is growing all the time. 

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In this blog, you’ll find clear answers to all your questions regarding open access journals and Impact Factors. 

Why choose open access?

Choosing to publish your research open access (OA) makes it freely and permanently available online. Anyone, anywhere can read and build upon it. The number of authors choosing to publish open access has surged in recent years, with many seeing it as an opportunity to broaden the impact of their work.  

Open access is great for readers because it gives them immediate access to the latest research. But what are the advantages of publishing open access for authors? Here are some of the key ones: 

  • Increase the visibility and readership of your research 

  • Demonstrate societal impact 

  • Freely share your work 

  • Comply with funder mandates 

Most academic publishers now offer open access journals, as well as open access publishing options within subscription journals. For more detail on exactly how open access works and how to publish open access with Taylor & Francis, look at our handy guide to open access

Do open access journals have impact factors?

As with all journals, some open access journals have an Impact Factor and others don’t. There are a number of reasons why a journal may not have an Impact Factor, for example: 

  • It may cover an Arts & Humanities subject, which isn’t listed in either the Social Sciences Citation Index or the Sciences Citation Index (the databases which Impact Factors are based on). 

  • The journal may be in the process of applying for indexing in these databases.

  • The journal may have chosen not to apply to be indexed. 

Where open access journals do have an Impact Factor, these could be higher or lower than subscription journals in the same field. Things like the citation patterns of the subject area and type of articles published in the journal will have a significant bearing on the Impact Factor calculation.  

For example, you might expect a well-read open access journal, which is available to everyone everywhere, to be highly cited. However, that may not be the case if the journal has a readership of practitioners, who won’t usually cite research articles. 

Learn more about how the Impact Factor is calculated and what it might mean for your research and the journal(s) you publish in. 

Are open access journal impact factors a good indicator of quality?

Whether or not an open access journal has an Impact Factor can’t be taken as the sole indicator of its quality or prestige. However, we know from our researcher survey (p.9) that the Impact Factor is an important consideration for many when choosing which journal to publish in.

Increasingly, though, we see researchers, funders and policymakers alike moving towards a broader understanding of impact. They recognize the need to assess scientific research on its own merits (beyond the Impact Factor of the journal it is published in) and call for a wider range of metrics and measures to support a fairer and more responsible approach to research assessment.  

You can read this blog to understand how to judge whether open access journals are good quality and you can check the Impact Factor of the open access journals we publish on the journal homepage on Taylor & Francis Online.  

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Are impact factors the only way to measure the impact of an open access journal?

The short answer to this question is no. But let’s look at it in a bit more depth. Journal metrics can help you to choose which journal to submit your work to. But they certainly shouldn’t be seen as the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to deciding where to publish. 

For a long time, the only tool for assessing journal performance was the Impact Factor. But now there is a range of different journal metrics available, from the traditional Impact Factor to the CiteScore and beyond. When choosing a journal, it’s vital that you consider a number of these metrics together, as well as looking at other factors that can help your research have an impact. 

Article-level metrics are also a helpful indicator of the impact generated by individual articles published in a journal. For example, Altmetric Attention Score tracks the online shares and conversations relating to a piece of published research. Each online ‘mention’ of that research is weighted differently. So, a journal article referred to in an international newspaper is given more weighting in the overall Altmetric Attention Score than someone tweeting about the same piece of research.  

Although it’s an article-level metric, reviewing recent articles published in a journal to see what Altmetric scores they’re receiving can give you a good indication of the journal’s impact. 

There’s more about article metrics in the video below… 

When publishing open access, it’s also important to consider the ways in which your research will have impact regardless of the Impact Factor of the journal. Your work is available for anyone, anywhere to read. So, open access journals (and the research published within them) can generate impact in lots of different ways, from generating thousands of article downloads to reaching people who may not otherwise have access to your research – like practitioners or policymakers. 

Where to next?

To find out more about open access publishing, you can take a look at the resources below: 

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