Centre for Journalology

Deciding where to submit

Did you know that there are more than 25,000 biomedical journals?

The number of scientific journals continues to increase rapidly. Given this situation, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that many authors have a difficult time deciding where to submit their manuscript for publication. 

There are many factors that may play a role in your decision of where to submit your manuscript, below we outline some key things to consider:​


1. Readership

Consider who the most appropriate audience for your work is. Some research lends itself to specialty journals, while other research is more broadly relevant. Some journals have regional specialization (e.g., CMAJ may be more likely to publish research on Canadian health topics or Canadian health samples than BMJ)

2. Journal review processes 

Some journals state anticipated review times. Timely publication may be a factor in selecting a journal; researchers can all look at time from acceptance to publication on recently published article to get a sense of this timeline at a particular journal. Researcher may also consider making a preprint if they wish to share findings more immediately. 

3. Journal impact factor

A journals impact factor refers to the average number of citations to articles published in the past 2 years. The impact factor, invented by Eugene Garfield, was first mentioned in Science in 1955. It was proposed as a mechanism for helping librarians select which journals to subscribe to based on its uptake within the field. In stark contrast to today, for many years after its introduction, impact factors were hardly a consideration of researchers. 

Did you know that a journal impact factor is poorly related to the number of citations an individual article receives? This suggests that the notion of prioritizing publication in high impact journals may be overemphasized. 

4. Journal fit
Researchers should carefully review the journal aim/scope they are considering submitting to as well as the instructions to authors. 

Editors will immediately reject work that is not within the aim/scope of the journals. Even if a journal’s aim/scope is relevant, researchers should confirm that the journal accepts articles in the format they wish to submit (e.g. article length, study design)

Open access publishing

The decision of where to publish your research is an important one. Where you publish impacts who will read and use your findings. Discussing your study and findings with colleagues who are content experts in your field may be a good first step in the process of selecting a relevant journal. Whether a journal is open access or not, may also be an important consideration.

There are several reasons you may choose to prioritize publishing in open access journals. For example, some argue that there is a moral imperative to make research produced freely available to others. Free access means that published work is accessible to researchers in developing countries. It also means the general public can access the findings, which is particularly relevant in Canada, where taxes paid may be used to support research.

Work published in an open access format is more likely to be cited (see for example here or here).

Is the journal open access?

In order to be compliant with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy published manuscripts must be accessible through the publisher’s website, or from within an online repository within 12 months. Please note that individuals in receipt of graduate scholarships and fellowships are not required to adhere to the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on publications. However, the Agencies do nonetheless encourage open access publishing. FlourishOA can be used to obtain price aggregates and information on publishing impact when selecting an open access journal.

You can use the SHERPA/ROMEO webpage to determine what type of copyright policies and self-archiving procedures exist at various journals.

The Open Access movement is becoming much more widespread, in part because of a number of national funders now requiring manuscripts to be made open access within a certain period of time from their date of publication. If you would like to learn more about the various formats of Open Access, Peter Suber maintains an informative website on this topic. You can also view the ‘How open is it?‘ document produced by PLOS and collaborators to learn more about the various formats of open access.

Note that not all Open Access journals require an article processing charge to be paid. For a list of journals that are open access and do not charge an article processing fee, see here

Making your paper open access

There are a number of way to make your research open access. One easy way is to simply publish the work in an open access journal. This will make the work openly available immediately at the time of publication. However, sometimes this option, known as ‘gold open access’ may not be possible. For example, many open access journals require an article processing fee to be paid to publish work.

Fee waivers or discounts can be requested to avoid these costs if, for example, the work is unfunded or lead by a student. The discounts available for open access publishing (see below box) may also be valuable in this respect.

However, in some instances researchers may choose not to publish their work in an open access journal because they don’t have sufficient funds, or because the best suited journal publishes under the traditional publishing model (i.e., not open access). In these instances researchers are encouraged to self-archive their work in an open access repository. This would ensure compliance to the Tri-Agency Policy on Open Access. This process of self-archiving work is called ‘green open access’.

To make work green open access researchers should use the SHERPA/ROMEO web-page to determine what type of copyright policies and self-archiving procedures exist at the journal where they published. Subsequently, they can use the uOttawa Repository, or another similar tool, to make deposit their work. Please note that researchers can deposit their work at the time of publication and simply stipulate an embargo period in the uOttawa Repository.

Be cautious of predatory journals

The advent of open access publishing has coincided with the rise in publishers and journals which seek profit but fail to operate transparently and have self-interest in mind.

It is important to be critical of journals when deciding where to submit your manuscript. Since many predatory journals solicit submissions via e-mail invitations, you should be particularly cautious when considering e-mail invites from journals you have not heard of, or from people you don’t know personally. Also beware of potential predatory journals when looking for new journals on major search engines.

How to identify a predatory journal

There are numerous lists which provide guidance on how to detect a predatory journals. A systematic review search conducted in November 2018 at our Centre found 93 unique checklists to support researchers in detecting a predatory journal. The continued development of such checklists may be confusing and of limited benefit. 

We suggest that researchers consider the following suggestions to make an overall assessment of a journal: 

  1. If the journal is open access, is it listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? If yes, the journal is likely not predatory because of the vetting done by DOAJ. However, a journal has to have been in operation for one year to be listed. 

  2. Is the journal a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? If yes, the journal is likely not predatory because of the membership requirements of COPE (journal published for at least one year and journal practices follow the COPE principles of publication ethics outlined in the COPE Core Practices)

  3. Does the journal present false information? It may promote a fake impact factor on its website, e.g. Index Copernicus Value (ICV) or false indexing. If yes, the journal is likely predatory and you should consider avoiding this journal.

  4. Have you been invited to submit to the journal via e-mail? If so, do you know the journal already from your reading or previous publishing experience? Do you know the editor directly? Do your colleagues know the journal? If not, this may not be a good outlet to choose – if you and your peers aren’t reading the journal, even if it is not predatory, it may not be the best choice. 
Learn more about predatory journals.

Journal Selector Tools

There are a number of freely available journal selector tools that may be useful to get an idea of the types of journals that may be relevant for your work. Examples include:


1.  Coalition for Responsible Publication Resources

2. “How to avoid predatory journals – a five point plan”

3.  Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing