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Demystifying academic publishing: A Researcher's guide to ethical journals

The world of academic publishing is intricate and elusive. This checklist suggests insights to support scholars in making informed decisions about ethical publishing practices.

Published onSep 21, 2023
Demystifying academic publishing: A Researcher's guide to ethical journals


This guide aims to support researchers and practitioners in making informed publishing decisions aligned with ethical practices. Academic publishing is an intricate process, so this checklist provides strategies for evaluating journals and other publication venues. The guide presents ten icons highlighting critical ethical considerations in academic publishing. Each icon includes an issue/consideration label and related questions to help assess publication venues on these factors.

Ten Ethical Publishing Considerations

1. Paywalls

Is the published work available to the public without paywalls? Providing open access to research findings, without paywalls or membership logins, is crucial for maximizing their visibility and impact. This approach helps to advance science education and knowledge, as these barriers can severely limit access to new insights. By offering free access to published findings, a wider audience can benefit from the advances in knowledge, whereas paywalls can restrict the dissemination of discoveries.

2. APCs

Does the journal publish open-access without (or with low) APCs? APC is short for article processing charges. This fee is sometimes imposed on authors to make their work available for open access by covering publishing expenses. Journals that charge lower or no APCs make open-access publishing more accessible to researchers. When article processing charges are high, authors with limited funding are excluded from sharing their work.

3. IPR

Is it clear that authors retain IPRs to their work? IPR is an abbreviation for intellectual property rights, which are the legal protections granted to creators of intellectual property such as books, articles, and artistic works. By retaining copyright, authors are able to share and reuse their work freely. However, transferring these rights can limit control over the dissemination of research discoveries.

4. Review Transparency

Is the review process transparent? Transparent article selection and peer review processes uphold accountability and mitigate bias. Opaque processes undermine rigor and integrity in science education research.

5. Published Reviews

Are peer reviews published? Open reviews enhance accountability, fairness, and rigor in science education. Closed reviews perpetuate secrecy and conflicts of interest.

6. JIF

Does the journal emphasize article-level metrics of impact? The Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is not a reliable way to measure the impact of individual articles within a journal. Instead, article-level metrics are a better indicator of research impact. Focusing on journal-level metrics over article impact can cause publishing incentives to be distorted and may not accurately reflect research contributions.

7. Individualism vs. Community

Is a community of scholars visible? Fostering community strengthens collective knowledge and catalyzes new insights. Competitiveness and exclusion inhibit collaboration.

8. Early-Career Inclusion

Is it inclusive of early-career scholars? Early-career scholars should be well-represented in the journal’s leadership to limit hierarchical exclusion, power imbalances, and echo chambers among article selectors, reviewers, and editors.

9. Practitioner Exclusion

Does the journal provide practitioner-friendly guidelines/requirements? Practitioners bridging research-practice gaps enhance real-world impact. Findings are limited if they exclude some applications.

10. Invisible Labor

Does the journal attribute its articles' editors and reviewers?Recognizing the contributions of editors and reviewers is crucial to valuing their role in the research process and avoiding their invisibility.

In summary, upholding these ethical values enhances science education research's rigor, transparency, diversity, and impact. Researchers should carefully evaluate journals on these factors before submitting their work.


The aim of this infographic is to make publishing considerations accessible, particularly for those who are new to publishing. However, evaluating all of these factors can be (and is perhaps intentionally) difficult which can be an indication of unethical publishing standards. This guide provides education and guidance, but authors may use as many or as few of these strategies as they need when making publishing decisions.

An infographic titled "Demystifying Academic Publishing: A Researcher's Guide to Ethical Journals" with 10 icons representing key considerations for ethical academic publishing practices.


In summary, this infographic guide empowers researchers and practitioners from various career stages and disciplines to make ethical publishing choices. Researchers should consider these factors when selecting where to publish, focusing on visibility and alignment with ethical practices respecting author rights, research value, and knowledge advancement. This guide encourages choices supporting ethical publishing.

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