DOAJ, Independence and the Importance of Impartiality

DOAJ receives regularly questions and, sometimes, complaints from libraries, library consortia and other academic institutions about the role which publishers—by “publishers” I mean the traditional publishing organisations in academic publishing—play in DOAJ. A common misconception is that DOAJ is owned by, or wholly subsidised by these organisations and that DOAJ is only of benefit to these organisations. If you looked at the DOAJ homepage two years ago, you’d be forgiven for making that assumption: nearly all of our sponsors were publishing organisations and they were all on our homepage. It looked like DOAJ was owned by publishers.

(Avoiding that misconception is also why DOAJ is very careful about who it goes into partnership with. The organisations we partner with must share the same values as DOAJ, have the same vision and at least be intent on providing services to the community. DOAJ is proud to call organisations like Redalyc, SciELO, ISSN and COPE partners.)

The assumption that DOAJ is owned by, or wholly subsidised by publishers is of course incorrect. Publishers play an important financial role in supporting the services which DOAJ provides to all stakeholders. Some publishers donate an annual sponsorship to us; some of them are publisher members. These contributions enable DOAJ to provide continuous services, and improvements to these services, for everyone but any direct influence on DOAJ stops there. In 2017 contributions from publishers accounted for 40% of the income, whereas contributions from public sector institutions accounted for the rest (60%). In 2018 income from public sector institutions will account for 70%. All contributions to DOAJ are made voluntarily; all services provided by DOAJ, including the evaluation of journals, are free.

DOAJ is for librarians, for publishers, for researchers, for students, for journal owners, for everyone. More than 50% of our advisory board is from the library and consortia community. DOAJ is global and isn’t tied down to geographic borders. We are a virtual organisation, employing people from all over the world and with our own Ambassadors encouraging best practice in their home territories. DOAJ is 100% independent. DOAJ is 100% impartial. DOAJ’s holding company, IS4OA C.I.C., is registered in a way that makes it impossible for DOAJ to be purchased, acquired or sold.

Impartiality plays a huge role in the progress that DOAJ has made over the last 5 years and the DOAJ Team works hard to ensure that impartiality is foremost in everything we do. This is one of the reasons that DOAJ adheres to, and encourages other to adhere to, transparency, best practice and standards; best practices and standards which are internationally grown, adopted and recognised. We also recognise that applying those standards and operating within them can be challenging so we have to retain a certain amount of flexibility. A good example here would be licensing.

licensing

Example of the licensing information captured by DOAJ about a journal’s policies.

People often ask: why does DOAJ accept some of the more closed licenses when the BOAI definition [that DOAJ follows as a principle] is clear about what open means? When DOAJ put together its extended application form in 2013, it was clear that DOAJ needed to allow 6 variations on the CC BY license, with varying degrees of openness, to ensure that as many titles as possible could apply to be indexed. The typical DOAJ user should be presented with options and they should be allowed to make an informed choice based on the information we display about a journal’s licensing and copyright policies. However, DOAJ considers the use of CC licenses, particularly use of the most open licenses, as Best Practice and we promote that as one of the criteria for the DOAJ Seal.

In 2017 DOAJ was 9th in a worldwide list of platforms supporting the use of Creative Commons licenses. We believe this to be a direct result of our  preference for CC licenses and the influence of the DOAJ Seal.

For an initiative like DOAJ to work, it must remain as relevant as possible around the world. It must remain impartial and it must remain independent.

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