Explanation of journal profile pages for the Cofactor Journal Selector tool

The tool uses 20 criteria divided into five categories to help users decide on a journal for submission of their original research paper. The categories are Subject, Peer review, Open access, Speed and Other, and there is also a section of General information. The various options available for each criterion are explained below.

See also the separate page of explanation of the questions used to get to these profile pages.


Table of contents:


General information

This section gives the publisher, journal website, URL of the instructions for authors, and some information on the scope of the journal. This scope information is either taken from the journal website or provided by the journal editors.
Some journals are published by a commercial company on behalf of an academic society. These are both given, with the company first, for example ‘Wiley for ChemPubSoc Europe’.


Main subject area

The options here are:

  • Biomed
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Earth sciences
  • Applied Sciences
  • Interdisciplinary Sciences
  • Arts/humanities/social sciences

If you would like a journal that covers biology or medicine, try ‘biomed’ as well as this may give you more journals.

Breadth of subject area

The options here are:

  • All of academia
  • All of science
  • All of biomed
  • All of physical sciences
  • All of biology
  • All of medicine
  • Humanities
  • Top level subject within one of the above (for example cell biology, cardiology, organic chemistry, volcanology, astrophysics or social work)
  • Specialist (this includes subjects that are more specialist than the ‘first level’ subject areas, such as mitochondria, paediatric cardiology, astronomy, organic chemistry, Martian volcanology or child social work)
  • Ultra-specialist (more specialist subjects than the above)

The classification of subject areas into ‘first level subjects’, specialist and ultra-specialist is somewhat subjective. To mitigate this, the data for each journal is being checked with the editors.

Peer review

Peer review type

This criterion covers the kind of peer review the journal does, regardless of how open or closed it is (this is covered by the next criterion). The options are:

  • Conventional: A small number of invited reviewers assess the manuscript before publication
  • Post-publication: Manuscripts are published first and then peer reviewed
  • Crowd-sourced: Peer review is crowd-sourced (before or after publication), that is, anyone can add a review
  • Preprint server: There is no peer review as the journal is a preprint server only
  • Reviewer discussion: There is discussion between reviewers (which can sometimes include the author) before a decision is made
  • Biology Direct type: The journal Biology Direct has a unique type of peer review that is fully open, restricted to editorial board members, and with the paper rejected if there are three refusals to review it

Peer review openness

Regardless of how peer review is done by the journal, this criterion covers the level of anonymity of reviewers and authors. The options are:

  • Closed, single blind: Reviewers are anonymous, reviewers see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Closed, double blind: Reviewers are anonymous, reviewers do not see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Revs can sign reports: Reviewers can sign reports if they wish, reviewers see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Authors know rev names: Authors know reviewers’ names, reviewers know authors names, reports are not published
  • Reviewers names published: Reviewers see authors’ names, reviewer names are published, reports are not published
  • Reports published anon: Reviewers see authors’ names, authors do not see reviewers’ names, reviewers’ reports are published, reviewers names are not published
  • Reports published with names: Reviewers see authors’ names, reviewers’ reports are published with their names
  • No peer review: for preprint servers

Note that where two options could be true for one journal, the most important has been selected. For example, for journals where reports are published with names but reviewers can choose whether or not to reveal their name, we have selected the former option as the one that is probably most important to authors.


This criterion covers what some journals call the ‘threshold’, or the level of ‘significance’ or ‘impact’ that the journal editors are aiming for. IF refers to the Thomson Reuters Journal Impact Factor. The impact factor ranges given are generally calculated from the actual 2012 impact factors for the journal. The 2013 impact factors will be used in a future version. However, the impact factor ranges should only be taken as a general guide to how selective a journal is, and the 2013 numbers are unlikely to be different enough to change the option selected for any journals.
The options are:

  • Megajournal: a journal that publishes all sound science or research in the field, regardless of perceived interest or importance (the criteria pioneered by PLOS ONE)
  • Low threshold (IF 1.5-3): a journal that is not very selective, generally publishing work that is of likely interest only to a specialist field
  • Medium threshold (IF 3-8): a journal that is somewhat selective, publishing work that is likely to be of interest to researchers in neighbouring fields
  • High threshold (GB, PLoS Biol etc): a journal that publishes only work of interest to a broad field (corresponding approximately to impact factor 9 to 15; the examples included here refer to Genome Biology and PLOS Biology)
  • V high threshold (SCN): highly selective journals such as Nature, Science, Cell, generally with impact factors over 15

Open access

Open access

This covers whether or not the journal allows the authors to make their paper free to read online, even if it also publishes some subscription-only papers. It does not take into account the licence under which the free content is published (this is covered by a separate heading). It also does not include journals choosing to make some papers free to read at their own discretion rather than at the request of the authors.

Allows green OA

Many journals allow the final accepted version, or sometimes the final published version, of an article to be submitted to a repository so that it is free for anyone to read. This is called green open access. Most subscription journals that allow this impose an embargo so that the paper cannot be made available through a repository for a period after publication, typically 6 months or a year. ‘Yes’ is given here if the journal allows any kind of archiving, including after an embargo. Journals that make all papers free to read when they are first published (gold open access journals) do not need green OA.

Has waivers

This is yes if the journal website says something similar to the statement for BioMed Central journals: “Individual waiver requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted in cases of lack of funds. This means that authors who are unable to pay the APC because of lack of funding can apply to pay less or nothing.”

If a journal has waivers this does not necessarily mean that all authors who ask for a waiver will get a reduction in the APC they have to pay. The criteria that journals use differ. Note also that many journals automatically waive the APC for authors in a list of low-income countries (for example for BioMed Central).

Has membership system

The options here are:

  • Personal membership (which can be membership of an academic society or of a scheme run by the publisher or journal)
  • Institutional membership (in which a university or institute pays APCs for all their researchers)

Note that journals have a variety of types of personal membership, with various discounts off the APC. PeerJ has a particular kind of membership that allows authors to publish a certain number of papers a year, and all authors (up to 12) must be members.

Hybrid or full gold

  • Gold: papers are free for readers as soon as they are published (Note: this does not necessarily mean that an APC is charged)
  • Hybrid: some papers in the journal are available to subscribers only, but others are available to all readers immediately because the authors have paid a fee
  • Subscription only (all papers are available to subscribers only; note that the journal may make some of them free to read at their discretion, rather than on the request of the authors)


The options for this criterion are:

  • CC BY
  • CC BY-NC
  • Other, no mention of CC
  • Copyright journal

These refer to Creative Commons licences. The attribution licence CC BY allows all reuses as long as the authors are credited. Strictly speaking open access publications must use this licence, but some journals use the term ‘open access’ for other licences. Other restrictions that can be added to CC BY are NC, which allows only non-commercial reuse, and ND, which doesn’t allow derivative works to be made.
Transfer of copyright to the publisher is the traditional system that was used by all journals until the 21st century.
‘Other, no mention of CC’ includes all licences that claim to be open access but do not use Creative Commons licencing.

Level of APC

The options are:

  • zero
  • cheap (up to $200)
  • $200-800
  • $1050-1600
  • $1600-2500
  • $2500-4500
  • Over $4500

These prices are the ones charged for full-length research papers. Some journals have lower APCs for shorter papers or particular article types, such as case reports or technical notes. All APCs have been taken from the journal websites. If necessary they have been converted into US dollars in mid 2014. Where APCs are given in several currencies the US dollar price has been used. Where there is a reduction for society members or for other special groups this has been ignored.
For PeerJ a membership system is used instead of an APC per paper; we have taken the assumptions given in the example on their website to calculate a typical equivalent to the APC of between $200 and $800, but the actual cost per paper or per author will vary depending on the pricing plan, number of authors and number of papers published per year.


The criterion ‘Speed to first decision‘ refers to the time from when the author submits their manuscript to when they receive a decision after peer review. Some papers will be rejected without peer review – this is not included in the times.
The criterion ‘Speed from acceptance to publication‘ refers to the time from when the formal letter of acceptance is sent to the author until the paper is published online. Publication in print or inclusion in an issue online, with volume and page numbers, takes longer. Some journals publish the author’s version very soon after acceptance and then copyedit and typeset the paper and later publish a laid-out version – for these journals we have taken the time of publication as the time when the author’s version goes online.
Some points on both speed criteria:

  • ‘Week’ means up to a week, ‘3 months’ means over a month and under 3 months, and so on.
  • Where a range of times is given we have taken the longest
  • Where an average is given we have used that
  • For journals that publish before peer review we have taken the time from submission to publication at that journal as being equivalent to the time from acceptance to publication in other journals
  • For F1000Research, in which papers are indexed in PubMed when they receive two approvals from peer reviewers (or one approval and two approvals with reservations) we have taken the time from publication to receipt of two reviews as equivalent to the time from submission to first decision in other journals


This category includes various miscellaneous criteria that can be used to assess a journal.

Company or not

The options are:
Company (owned by a commercial company, corporation etc)
Nonprofit (owned by a charity or nonprofit organization)
Society (owned by an academic society; includes society journals published by commercial companies)
Academic/institution run (such as a journal owned by a university or academic institute)

Length restrictions

The options are:

  • None: a paper can be as long as the author wishes (though most journals encourage authors to be concise)
  • Medium: papers must be less than a limit that would not seem very restrictive to most authors, such as 10 pages in the final pdf version or 10,000 words
  • Encouraged but not insisted on: the journal states a length limit but says that there is some flexibility and longer papers can sometimes be published
  • Strong: there is a strict length limit that is under about 6 pages in the final pdf version or under 5,000 words. These journals usually have strict restrictions on the number and sizes of figures and tables as well.
  • Can pay if longer: the journal has a length limit but longer articles can be published on payment of an additional fee.

Provides altmetrics

The options are:

  • None (we could see no evidence of article-level metrics displayed on article pages on the journal website)
  • Accesses only (numbers are given for the views or downloads of articles)
  • Altmetric (metrics are provided by Altmetric, displayed using their recognizable donut)
  • Uses own system (the publisher has its own system of article-level metrics that gives more information than just accesses or citations)
  • ImpactStory (metrics are provided by ImpactStory)
  • Accesses and citations (numbers are given for the views or downloads of articles and also citations. This does not include journals that give citations only from articles published by the same publisher)

CrossMark implemented

Crossmark is a service from CrossRef that tells readers whether a document is up to date or whether it has been retracted or a correction, erratum or addition is attached to it. The publishers participating in the scheme are listed here. This is listed as ‘Yes’ if we could see the Crossmark logo on papers on the journal website. If we are sure that the journal is not a member of the scheme this is listed as ‘No’; otherwise it is ‘Unknown’. Data for this option is currently incomplete so many journals are listed as unknown.

Has a 2013 impact factor

The Journal Impact Factor from Thomson Reuters Journal Citations Reports is the most commonly used indicator of the quality of a journal. Here we include data only on whether the journal has an Impact Factor or not – the journals that do not are generally less than three years old, so there has not been enough time since their launch for the Impact Factor to be calculated from citations. The 2013 impact factors were released in late July 2014, and the journals that then received one for the first time now have this option checked.


Journals traditionally do a thorough check of the whole article for sense, grammar, consistency and so on before publication. Some newer journals, however, do not do this, or do only a limited check.
The options here are:

  • No (no copyediting is done by the journal after acceptance)
  • Yes (copyediting is done)
  • Limited (a limited check is done but not a full copyedit)
  • Optional (the paper can be copyedited if the author requests it; this usually requires an additional fee)