DOAJ in 2020 and beyond – a closer look

Open access has become more important than ever – last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, greater numbers of people turned to online information sources. With universities and libraries closed and scholars working from home, at DOAJ, we saw an increase of almost half a million individual users to the DOAJ website in 2020 – bringing the total number of individual users in the year to over 9 million, visiting over 33.5 million pages and spending almost 3 minutes on each page. 

Technology

By the start of 2020 our plans to redesign the DOAJ website, improving accessibility standards and usability, were already well underway. The new site, with our first step towards a freshly designed logo and visual identity, was launched in November 2020. Visitors to the website will notice that we have improved the user experience, based on evidence-based user testing. We hope that simpler language and a more intuitive layout will help to make DOAJ easier to navigate and use. For publishers a simplified and restructured application form and a new dashboard are available and we have also improved the landing pages for journals and articles. 

The new website is not a finished product and we are still working under the hood to improve integration tools, enhance the metadata and also improve the experience for our volunteers when they are reviewing applications. In the meantime, DOAJ visitors can enjoy the website’s performance with browser translation tools, easier forms to create and upload metadata, and ORCID and Crossref compatibility. DOAJ has also become one of the chosen data sources for the Plan S Journal Checker Tool (JCT). Please tell us what you think of our improved site and where you think we have room for further improvement.

Editorial 

We received 8416 new applications and updates in 2020 – an all-time high, and an increase of almost 25% over 2019 (6760). Despite this increased workload, we have worked hard to reduce the turnaround times for reviewing applications, and now the vast majority of applications are processed in less than 3 months. 

Our work on inviting journals to apply to DOAJ continued. We have been analysing lists of journals that are not currently included in DOAJ and cast a wider net to take in a more diverse group of journals, such as those from marginalised communities, under-represented subject areas and more. Our Finnish pilot project is now at an end. This has  added more Finnish journals to DOAJ, producing a toolkit that can be reused for other acquisition projects and providing valuable insight into how these types of projects should be run. A major takeaway is that even with help, tools and support, some journals do not submit applications to DOAJ. This could be due to time restrictions, more technical reasons around copyright and licensing, or simply that the journal doesn’t think that it is a priority.

As always, our main focus has been to continue providing the trusted journal indexing service that we are known for. An important part of that work is maintaining the accuracy and recency of the metadata. We produced a plan for the regular update of existing records, in addition to our ongoing work to add new journals, and opened up the service which allows publishers to submit an update to their journal records.

In 2020 we simplified and clarified the DOAJ criteria for inclusion, separating the basic criteria from the additional criteria, and the best practice criteria for the DOAJ Seal. These are published for the first time, as our Guide to applying,  and we will make them available in as many languages as we can. 

We created an Editorial Subcommittee to provide specialist input and advice on editorial issues around process and content quality. Each member was chosen based on their expertise and experience in medicine, life sciences, physical science, social sciences, humanities, arts, statistics and publishing/ research ethics.

Supporters 

We have been delighted to welcome new supporters into the DOAJ community in 2020, including FinELIB, Consortium for Finnish Universities and new contributions for organisations in the United States, including the American Chemical Society who signed up to be a sponsor.  The Dutch Research Council also committed to becoming a sustaining supporter of DOAJ, signing up for a three-year commitment. 

In preparation for 2021, we expanded the DOAJ donations model to make it more accessible to all types of organisations and to recognise financial commitments by offering an expanded set of benefits. Supporters who are publishers and aggregators can now choose different benefits packages, which include additional publicity and metric reports.

Thank you to all those who supported us in 2020. The funds we receive from organisations around the world enable us to continue maintaining and improving DOAJ as an essential piece of open access infrastructure.

Strategy 

2020 was the last year of our old strategy so we spent some time detailing what our focus would be for 2021/2022. The new strategy focuses on discovery and DOAJ’s place in the discovery chain, the value we provide and how we do this. We are aware that we need to work on explaining what we do and the benefits that we bring, which is why we have placed a strong focus on communications in the current strategy. We recently brought onboard a new Public Relations Officer who will help us tell the story of DOAJ’s impact to wider audiences and act as the focal point for media and communications. We also created a mailing list for a newsletter so people can hear more about business developments.

Community update

In 2020, four new ambassadors joined DOAJ in Latin America, North America and Africa. They are already hard at work and we are seeing exciting results as DOAJ support grows in these regions, including a three-year collective action agreement just announced, which provides multi-year support for DOAJ from all fifteen member libraries of the Big Ten Academic Alliance in North America.  We also announced a partnership with Redalyc-Amelica and started working on a similar partnership with Scielo.

DOAJ is also pleased to be teaming up with Érudit, on a project which aims to encourage and help peer-reviewed open access journals disseminated on the erudit.org platform to be indexed in DOAJ. In another new initiative, DOAJ is working with Redalyc-Amelica (Autonomous University of the State of Mexico) and started working on a similar partnership with Scielo.

Our volunteers now have immediate and easy access to the DOAJ team, through a new volunteers panel, allowing them to comment on developments. We have increased regular contact with them and are more actively supporting our global volunteer community. Individuals continue to be featured on the blog and there is now a special section on the website with profiles, photos and information on the diverse individuals in our volunteer community who keep DOAJ running. 

DOAJ signed up to participate in a Diamond Study supported by cOAlitionS to explore collaborative and non-commercial publishing models in open access. The study aims to provide an analysis of the global landscape of collaborative, non-commercial journals and platforms. It will examine current funding models for these platforms, identifying the main challenges they face to meet the needs of open access policies and initiatives, such as Plan S, and industry-standard requirements. Recommendations and outcomes are due to be published in early March 2021.

That journals continue to disappear from the Web is a well-known but nevertheless worrying trend. A paper published in 2020 by Laakso et al brought this topic back into the spotlight, particularly as it focussed on open access journals, many of them without a revenue stream or funding. DOAJ is leading an initiative that aims to implement a sustainable solution that will reduce the number of unarchived journals. CLOCKSS, DOAJ, Internet Archive, Keeper Registry and PKP have joined forces to remove the technical and financial barriers that face many unfunded (“diamond”) journals. 

After the events leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement, the scholarly publishing community became much more aware of how it contributes to and perpetuates unconscious biases that marginalise some communities. DOAJ pulled together a DEI group from our Advisory Board, Council and DOAJ team that would focus specifically on improving DOAJ’s diversity, not only in terms of the people that work for us but also in terms of the journals we index. The first step was to recognise and identify areas for improvements and we will continue our efforts to improve inclusion and diversity in 2021 and beyond.

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