Guest post: a technical update from our development team

This is a guest post by Richard Jones, founding partner of Cottage Labs and member of the DOAJ team. Cottage Labs has hosted, developed and managed the DOAJ platform since December 2013 and is responsible for keeping DOAJ available to the vast number of individuals using DOAJ every day.


To the public, it may seem that not a lot has changed at doaj.org for the past year or so but in the background, a lot of work has been going on to prepare for some major improvements.

January – August 2019

During this period, our technical focus has been on 3 major areas: the Application Form; the editorial workflow system, which underpins the application process; and the User Interface (UI). In addition, we have been carrying out the final bits of work to improve the stability and scalability of the system, with the net result that in those 8 months there was only 3 minutes of unscheduled down-time.

The team measures its throughput via the number of issues that are successfully dealt with per month in our GitHub issue tracker. On average we’re handling 20-25 issues per month, some of which are support questions. These questions come from a variety of sources including DOAJ team members, end users, or from technical users of the API and other machine interfaces.

We’ve also been working with a new performance monitor to identify bugs, and for the first time we are able to detect issues with the system that go unreported or even unnoticed by end users.

Here are some of the minor improvements we’ve made:

  • Improved API documentation
  • Further GDPR compliance: cookie consent banner; marketing opt in/out preferences for users; and anonymisation of data used in testing and development
  • Data about articles in the Journal CSV file
  • A preliminary overhaul of the site’s layout template and CSS, in preparation for a much larger UI upgrade next year.

Here are some major bits of work that we have carried out:

  • Enhancements to our historical data management system. We track all changes to the body of publicly available objects (Journals and Articles) and we have a better process for handling that.
  • Introduced a more advanced testing framework for the source code. As DOAJ gains more features, the code becomes larger and more complex. To ensure that it is properly tested for before going into production, we have started to use parameterised testing on the core components. This allows us to carry out broader and deeper testing to ensure the system is defect free.
  • A weekly data dump of the entire public dataset (Journals and Articles) which is freely downloadable.
  • A major data cleanup on articles: a few tens of thousands of duplicates, from historical data or sneaking in through validation loopholes, were identified and removed. We closed the loopholes and cleaned up the data.
  • A complete new hardware infrastructure, using Cloudflare. This resulted in the significant increase in stability mentioned above and allows us to cope with our growing data set (increasing at a rate of around 750,000 records per year at this point).

And here are some projects we have been working on which you will see come into effect over the next few weeks:

  • A completely new search front-end. It looks very similar to the old one, but with some major improvements under-the-hood (more powerful, more responsive, more accessible), and gives us the capability to build better, cooler interfaces in the future.
  • Support for Crossref XML as an article upload format. In the future this may also be extended to the API and we may also integrate directly with Crossref to harvest articles for you. We support the current Crossref schema (4.7) and we will be supporting new versions as they come along.

Finally, we welcomed a new developer to our team, Aga, who joined Cottage Labs and the DOAJ team in July of this year.

Taking a longer view, developments coming down the pipe in the next 6-8 months or so are:

  • A major overhaul to the UI, following extensive design and user experience work by DOAJ’s UX consultant.
  • A lot of work on the editorial back-end (so you might not notice much change on the public side) to improve the throughput and usability of the system for the editors and administrators.
  • A new, revamped application form, which will be easier to use and offer you better support in applying to DOAJ or updating your existing Journals.

If you have any questions or would like more detail on anything you have read here, do please contact us or leave a comment here.

The community has chosen: introducing the new DOAJ Council.

Continuing the implementation of our new governance model, the DOAJ Council has been elected. The following individuals received the majority of the votes cast by the DOAJ community:

Shelley Allen, Emerald Publishing, United Kingdom
Perry Collins,University of Florida Libraries, USA
Frederick Fenter, Frontiers, Switzerland
Dora Elvira García-González, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico
Piero Grandesso, University of Bologna, Italy
Suzanne Kemperman, OCLC, USA
Christian Knudsen, Royal Danish Library, Denmark
Gail McMillan, Virginia Tech and University Libraries, USA
Donna McRostie, University of Melbourne, Australia
Rainer Rees-Mertins, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland
Karen Rowlett, University of Reading, United Kingdom
Stephanie Savage, University of British Columbia, Canada
Franck Vazquez, MDPI, Switzerland

The website will be updated with their names and a conflict of interest statement from each.

Two Council seats remain and these will be filled by invite only. DOAJ is looking for representatives from other organisations, preferably organisations operating out of low income countries or organisations whose mission matches that of DOAJ’s.

On behalf of all the DOAJ Team, I wish each of our new Council members a warm welcome!

Myth-busting: all open access journals can be listed in DOAJ

This is a myth.

People think that DOAJ exists to index all open access journals. A journal can only be indexed if it passes all of our criteria.

The Directory of Everything Open Access

The Directory of Everything open access would be a wonderful thing but of how much use would it be? DOAJ understands that users want: advice on where to publish; guidance on the reputation and credibility of a journal; peer-reviewed open access content published by quality journals. We serve a community who are interested in finding places to publish or read research for DOAJ-approved journals.

Of course, there are arguments that seeing all the open access research is better than only seeing a selection of it, but for sites which do this, where are the quality filters? In fact Unpaywall, which does aim to show as much open access content as it can, suggests to keep using DOAJ as the quality filter.

What defines an open access journal anyway?

And herein lies the problem. There are many grades, shades and colours of open access but only some of those are recognised by DOAJ. DOAJ takes its lead from the definition of openness and open access as described by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI):

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

 There are many journals which have open access content in them but not all journals, or the articles in them, adhere to this founding definition of open access. Therefore a user will not find these journals or articles in DOAJ. Equally, open access articles from ceased journals are not included. Hybrid publishing is another example. Hybrid publishing is full of problems and there are concerns of double dipping. Essentially, hybrid publishing goes against every statement from the BOAI definition above so, from the beginning, DOAJ decided not to include hybrid journals.

DOAJ compared to SCOPUS and Web of Science

In an attempt to understand the number of OA journals which are not in DOAJ, we have recently started a detailed analysis of the journal lists of the 3 most used indexing services: SCOPUS, Web of Science (WoS) and DOAJ. As all 3 services serve to list quality journals according to a set of similar criteria, we would have expected these lists to overlap to a large extent.

However, when looking at the list of OA journals listed in DOAJ, SCOPUS and WoS[1], we found huge differences. Where DOAJ listed 12,582 journals (as of January 2019), SCOPUS listed 5920 journals and WoS only listed 4485 journals.

Annotation 2019-09-17 070103

Image by Tom Ojihoek

The reason for these discrepancies lies in the differences between the criteria for acceptance into each index; the differences in inclusion processes–DOAJ relies very much on action by the publisher to provide data–and the differences in update frequencies of each index. For instance, we found that many of the journals listed in SCOPUS but not in DOAJ had either not submitted applications to DOAJ or had submitted applications that were rejected. In other words, many of the journals that DOAJ is apparently lacking (but which are listed in SCOPUS or WoS) do not fulfill the DOAJ criteria while others are not listed in DOAJ because they simply did not apply.

Of the massive number of journals in DOAJ but which are not in SCOPUS or WoS, many are non-English journals from the Global South meaning that DOAJ’s coverage is greater, more diverse and more truly represents the global nature of open access.

It is clear from these data that not all open access journals can or should be in DOAJ.

Reference
1.
Bruns, A., et al., 2019. ISSN-Matching of Gold OA Journals (ISSN-GOLD-OA) 3.0, Bielefeld University. DOI: 10.4119/unibi/2934907 We are very grateful for the work done by Bruns et al and that their raw data was available for us to analyze.

New Pilot to encourage Finnish Open Access Journals to apply to DOAJ

PRESS RELEASE

TSV loves DOAJ logoDOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) and the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV) are collaborating on a pilot project to encourage and help peer-reviewed open access (OA) journals published in Finland to be indexed in DOAJ. The Pilot runs from May 2019 to May 2020.

DOAJ has set an international standard for peer-reviewed OA journals. The index currently includes 13500 journals from over 131 countries publishing in 75 languages, showing the regional and linguistic diversity of research. 

For a variety of reasons, not all open access journals are indexed in DOAJ. A recent paper by Björk showed DOAJ covers 42% of OA journals published in Nordic countries, and there are considerable country differences – 68% of OA journals from Norway but only 23% from Finland.

In an open letter concerning Plan S, DOAJ called on representative groups in the social sciences, humanities and arts to collaborate with them and help them to identify journals that are fit for purpose, and which should be indexed in DOAJ. The TSV Publication Forum (Julkaisufoorumi in Finnish) answered that call and has identified ~160 potential OA journals published in Finland, of which 29 are already in DOAJ. TSV proposed a collaboration with DOAJ to help getting the rest of the Finnish OA journals indexed.

The pilot project will determine if these journals are DOAJ compliant and, if not, what they need to do to meet the basic DOAJ criteria. DOAJ, TSV Publication Forum and TSV Publication Services will work together to facilitate the process of the journals’ possible inclusion in DOAJ by communicating criteria, translating instructions, and organising workshops for training and preparing applications. A further goal  of the pilot is to encourage Finnish journals that are not yet OA to consider open access publishing. 

TSV Publication Forum maintains a national classification of peer-reviewed journals and book publishers that is based on evaluation by field-specific expert panels. All the identified potential OA journals have been approved to be peer-reviewed academic/scholarly journals. Many of the journals also use the TSV label for peer-reviewed scholarly publications, showing their strong commitment to high standards of peer-review and research integrity.

Most peer-reviewed journals in Finland are not-for-profit and are published by learned societies. TSV’s strategy for 2019-2023 includes developing open publication by member organisations so the pilot project launched with DOAJ is very much on the Federation’s agenda. TSV is also the national coordinator of Finland’s open science policy, and is currently working with stakeholders to create a national open access strategy as well as recommendations for responsible evaluation of a researcher.

Further information: 
Dominic Mitchell (dom@doaj.org)
Janne Pölönen (janne.polonen@tsv.fi)