A common practice among authors is to consider journals’ impact factor when deciding where to publish. That approach to evaluating journals has merit, though its importance is often exaggerated and misused, not to mention inappropriately manipulated.1 Journals also vary in accessibility. A journal is more accessible when, one, it is free for everyone to read and, two, free for everyone to publish in. In those respects, the most accessible journals are “diamond access” followed by those that are “gold access” and, finally, “hybrid access.”
Per Google Scholar’s rank of “top publications” in criminology,2 all of our field’s most cited journals are hybrid. Thus, for the most part, their articles are only (legally,) freely and publicly accessible as postprints. This makes green access particularly important for criminology. A journal’s green access policy may allow instant or embargoed green access; if the latter, for shorter or longer periods, on all or some websites.
When authors decide where to publish based on journals’ respective impact factors, they also should consider the amount of green access afforded by their respective copyright policies. By prioritizing, and acting on, publishing in journals that allow greater green access, authors increase their personal impact3 plus serve social justice.
To help authors, I created the Green Access Rank of Most Cited Journals in Criminology. As its title suggests, it ranks criminology’s most cited journals according to their level of green access. This information is useful for making accessibility an important part of deciding where to publish; and, after a work is accepted for publication, legally maximizing its accessibility.
The following information is used to create the ranking:
A list of “top” publications. I use that of Google Scholar for “Criminology, Criminal Law & Policing” (as of June 6, 20204) because it is free and widely used. Other journal citation rankings could be used, of course.
For each journal, its copyright policy. Specifically, on which websites it permits sharing postprints;5 and, for each, the embargo period (if any).6 I use the Wiki List of Criminology Journals (as of June 6, 20207) as the basis for that information because it is free and, to my knowledge, the most complete and accurate list of its kind.
Based on that information, the Green Access Rank of Most Cited Journals in Criminology puts journals in three categories. Journals in the first category are ranked as more accessible than those in the second category, which are ranked as more accessible than those in the third category.
Most accessible: journals that allows instant (i.e., no embargo) archiving of postprints on personal and alternative websites
Less accessible: journals that allows instant (i.e., no embargo) archiving of postprints on personal websites, but embargo archiving on alternative websites
Least accessible: journals that embargo archiving of postprints on personal and alternative websites
Within the latter two categories, a journal is ranked as more accessible when its embargo length is shorter. Within all three categories, the above process results in some ties. I wavered on whether to keep them tied or rank them further. Ultimately, because this Green Access Rank builds on Google Scholar’s ranking of top publications, I decided to use the latter to break ties in the former.
To be clear, the ranking reflects copyright policies, not their effect on archiving postprints. Like law, the “copyright on the books” may be different from that in practice. For example, imagine two journals: One journal allows authors to instantly archive postprints on all websites, and the other journal embargoes their sharing for 24 months on all websites. In the ranking, the first journal would be ranked higher than the latter. Yet, for example, authors of neither journal may actually archive; or, authors of the latter journal could archive more often, either legally after the embargo or illegally during it.
Given the results, I would like to disclose what could be deemed a conflict of interest: For a few years now, I have served as editor of a Sage journal, International Criminal Justice Review. I do not believe this affected the thought process behind the input or process, described above.