There are many misconceptions about Open Access related to their quality and impact. However, as noted by Peter Suber in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, "The key variables in journal quality are excellent authors, editors, and referees. OA journals can use the same procedures and standards, and the same people—the same authors, editors, and referees—as TA [toll access, i.e. subscription] journals." He also notes that quality is not the same as prestige and that even quality journals take time to build prestige, "If most OA journals are lower in prestige than most TA journals, it's not because they are OA. A large part of the explanation is that they are newer and younger. And conversely: if most TA journals are higher in prestige than most OA journals, it's not because they are TA. A large part of the explanation is that they are older or have a headstart." Learn more in Myths About Open Access.
Generally, the same factors apply when selecting an open access journal vs a traditional journal to publish your article in. There are a few resources specific to Open Access journals that you may also consult.
Excerpted from Peter Suber article published in The Guardian, 2013 (with edits and additions.)
1) The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals
Open access delivered by journals is called “gold” open access and open access delivered by repositories is called “green” open access. The myth asserts that all open access is gold , even for peer-reviewed articles. However, the belief that publishing open access means publishing only in open access journals is false.
2) All or most open access journals charge publication fees
About one-third of open-access journals charge publication fees (compared to three-fourths of conventional journals).
3) Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves
According to the comprehensive Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP), when researchers publish in fee-based open access journals, the fees are paid by funders (59%) or by universities (24%). Only 12% of the time are they paid by authors out of pocket.
4) Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access
Most conventional publishers give standing permission for author-initiated green open access. Many of the others will give permission on request. For authors unsure of a publisher’s position, check out the Sherpa RoMEO database of publisher policies, read the publishing contract, or ask an editor. It’s always worth asking, if only to register demand and show rising expectations.
5) Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality
As early as 2004, Thomson Scientific found that in every field of the sciences “there was at least one open access title that ranked at or near the top of its field” in citation impact.
6) Open access mandates infringe academic freedom
This is true for gold open access but not for green. But if you believe that all open access is gold, then this myth follows as a lemma. Because only about one-third of peer-reviewed journals are open access, requiring researchers to submit new work to open access journals would severely limit their freedom to submit work to the journals of their choice. By contrast, green open access is compatible with publishing in non-open access journals, which means that green open access mandates can respect author freedom to publish where they please. That is why literally all university open access mandates are green, not gold. It’s also why the green/gold distinction is significant, not fussy, and why myths suppressing recognition of green open access are harmful, not merely false.
7) Open Access Journals are not peer-reviewed
Quality Open Access journals have peer-review, provide an option to request a waiver to OA publishing fees (if applicable), and are a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association or adhere to its Code of Conduct. However, predatory OA publishers do exist, and it is good to know what clues to look for to avoid predatory publishers.
8) Publishing in an Open Access venue means that I have retained all my copyrights
Reputable Open Access Journals should meet the following standards: