DOAJ has a network of 130 skilled, voluntary Associate Editors and Editors who spend a few hours a week processing new journal applications for us. Would you like to join us? We are now recruiting volunteers who understand Portuguese and Spanish (You do not have to be a native speaker.) You must also be proficient in written and spoken English.
As a DOAJ Associate Editor, you will be expected to do a few hours of voluntary, unpaid work a week. You will be provided with training materials to help you carry out your duties. The work you do will directly contribute to the quality, reputation, and prominence of open access, scholarly publishing around the globe.
Interview with Xiaotian Chen, Electronic Services Librarian / Associate Professor at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA and Editor at DOAJ.
When did you start volunteering for DOAJ?
I started as the editor of DOAJ’s Chinese Group in 2014, working with a couple of associate editors. In January 2018, I became the editor of the newly created Southeast Asia Group with eight to ten associate editors.
What does your work as an editor entail?
The Southeast Asia Group primarily evaluates journal applications from Japan, Korea, and then other Southeast Asian countries. As Editor, I manage the associate editors and the applications assigned to them on top of processing my own applications. I follow up with associates and help them when they have questions.
What is most interesting about being an editor at DOAJ?
Professional development is probably the biggest accomplishment for me as a DOAJ volunteer. During the past five years with DOAJ, I have learned a lot about Open Access even though I had published two Open Access articles before I joined DOAJ.
Could you tell us some examples of areas where you improved your expertise?
I learned about Creative Commons (CC) licenses. Without being at DOAJ, I probably either would not know about, or would not pay much attention to, this alternative to the traditional “All Rights Reserved” practice.
I learned that some OA journals allow authors to retain copyright. Having signed quite a
few copyright transfer forms myself, I thought that all journals would require all authors do this.
I learned more about questionable publishing practices, or, the practices by the so-called “predatory” journals, although we do not use that term at DOAJ.
Have you learned anything about Open Access in South East Asia specifically?
Korea and China are similar in culture and yet in China, only a very tiny percentage of journals are published in English. However, a considerable number of Korean journals have switched from Korean to English and others are new OA journals which have started in English. That is a sharp contrast between China and Korea I did not know of before.
Japan seems less interested in OA than Korea. Since Japan is a leader in economy,
technology, research, and pretty much everything in East Asia, one would think Japan would publish more OA journals than other Asian countries. Surprisingly, my group at DOAJ processes way more applications from Korea than from Japan.
Everything I have learned through DOAJ has helped me in doing both my library work and my own research. Also, when DOAJ showed up as a resource in my library’s OpenURL link resolver, I didn’t need to do research on what it was and didn’t hesitate to activate it for my library users.
Overall, I find volunteering at DOAJ very rewarding. For me personally, it is
a window of opportunity that opens grand views and creates many possibilities.
Dr Xenia van Edig, Business Development, answers our questions.
-Your organisation has been supporting DOAJ for a few years now. Why is it important for Digital Science to support DOAJ?
As an information hub for all those interested in high-quality peer-reviewed open-access journals, the DOAJ is an extremely important platform. It is independent and committed to high-quality and peer-reviewed open access in all fields of STEM and HSS. With the re-vetting of all its content in 2016 and with the introduction of the DOAJ seal, its mission to increase the visibility, accessibility, reputation, usage, and impact of open-access journals has become even more evident. For us as an exclusively open-access publisher, it is therefore only logical that we support DOAJ.
–What benefits does being indexed in DOAJ bring to your journals?
Indexing in DOAJ increases the visibility of our journals and demonstrates that our journals adhere to best practices in open-access publishing. Furthermore, many libraries and institutions understandably only provide financial support for article processing charges (APCs) for journals which are indexed in DOAJ and therefore receive an external quality seal.
-Do you think that the DOAJ has been and/or still is important for the development of Open Access publishing?
-What is Copernicus doing to support that development? Do you have any exciting projects underway?
Copernicus Publications has been an open-access publisher since 2001. In the past 18 years, we have helped many learned societies and academic institutions launch new open-access journals or transform their existing journals into open-access journals. In addition, we have been promoting open access in the peer-review process since 2001 by implementing the Interactive Public Peer Review, which is now applied by 20 of the 42 journals we publish. The current rise of preprint servers and the formation of initiatives promoting open peer review prove that this peer review model is still innovative.
These past years have focussed on making content accessible. The next ongoing challenge is to overcome the barriers regarding APC payments. We recently launched a national licence in Germany, with many universities and research centres participating. Together with our partners in libraries and funding bodies, we strive towards a seamless open-access experience for authors without worrying about APC payments.
-What are your personal views on the future of Open Access publishing?
I hope that further progress will be made in accelerating the transition towards a world where research outputs are publicly available and reusable. However, I fear that current major initiatives are focussing too much on the big legacy publishers – leaving out smaller publishers and those who are purely open access. While “read and publish” deals might be a step in transforming the publishing ecosystem, funders, consortia, and institutions should not forget about those who stood up for open access when the topic was not on “everyone’s lips”. Furthermore, even though many journals published by Copernicus are financed via article processing charges, APCs are not the only business model for open access.
-What do you think that the scholarly community could do to better support the continued development of the Open Access movement in the near future?
I think the current evaluation system for grants, tenure, etc., which still heavily relies on the journal impact factor, favours established journals and puts newer publication venues and innovative outlets at an unfair disadvantage. Of course there are many open-access journals with high impact factors, but there is a structural disadvantage since many open-access journals are newer.
In addition, faculty and students need to be more educated about open access. For many academics, their academic freedom to freely choose a journal for their articles seems to hinge on the fact that they do not want to deal with access and reuse rights. Many academics seem to think that everything is fine because they have access to the literature through the subscriptions of their institutions’ libraries. Furthermore, they do not have to deal with APCs when publishing in subscription journals. This means a lot of advocacy for open access is still needed.
-Much has been said recently about whether open access is succeeding or failing, particularly in terms of the original vision laid out by the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002. Do you think that open access has fallen short of this vision, or has it surpassed expectations?
Whether something is a good idea or not cannot be measured in number of articles or successful journal transformations. I think that most people involved in the open-access movement had hoped for a quicker transition. However, only because it has been slower than envisioned, the vision of BOAI – the public good of “the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it” – is still the goal to achieve. Around 17 years ago open access was not on the political agenda like it is today (e.g. Plan S). Therefore, I would say the movement has been successful.
A recently published article on a comparison of blacklists and whitelists draws the conclusion that “In the DOAJ, more criteria relate to transparency of business and publishing practices rather than to the quality of peer review. This indicates a risk of falsely endorsing the legitimacy of a journal based on its transparent nature, while at the same time ignoring journals’ lack of best practices in peer review”
Perhaps we could have done a better job in explaining how DOAJ assess the quality of journals. When the DOAJ list started in 2003, peer review was one of four criteria used in the evaluation.
After the upgrade in 2014, to include more than 40 criteria, it is certainly true that most of these pertain to the transparency of publishing and business practices.
At the same time however, peer review has remained a key criteria for judging the quality of journals that apply for inclusion in the DOAJ index. So the aspect of quality peer review weighs heavily in the assessment of the quality of journals.
In contrast to what the authors of the article state on peer review procedures DOAJ requires peer review by at least two independent reviewers. Page 13 ; “Both blacklists and whitelists include criteria stating that a journal needs to have a “rigorous” peer review system in place (see list of criteria in supplementary file 2). Both whitelists do not define “rigorous”, however, Cabell’s whitelist implies that peer review should be anonymous and conducted by at least two reviewers.
As stated in the article, peer review is one of the intermediate verifiable criteria. That means that when a publishers states on the website that they have for instance double blind peer-review our editors usually check the correctness of this by verifying an accompanying description of the peer review process. However in case of any doubt concerning the journal’s quality, a special editorial team will do a more detailed analysis on quality criteria including peer review practices, editorial board competence, content comparison of published articles, plagiarism checking and other factors. It is safe to say that our users will have a hard time finding journals in DOAJ with no or inadequate peer review procedures in place.
Because peer review until now has been the holy grail of scientific quality control, it is understandable that people link the quality of, or even the mere presence of peer review with the quality of a given journal. The relationship is unfortunately not so clear cut as many want to believe. Peer review by good connections, friends of friends, even colleagues is often seen. In addition independent peer review panels of experts come to very different conclusions regarding one and the same scholarly work. Because of this, the entire peer review procedure is in a state of rapid change. Indexing services like the DOAJ have to be aware of the shortcomings of the current system and therefore avoid overrating peer review as THE criteria to assess quality. We think that good publishing practices other than peer review and good quality editorial boards are at least as important and more easy to verify as details of peer review practices.
I want to end with a short word on blacklists. We note that blacklists are depending for a large part on difficult verifiable criteria and subjective judgment, while DOAJ depends largely (77%) on easily verifiable criteria related to transparency and business practices. Blacklists also tend to give a lasting sting to the reputation of journals. More often than not, there exist inadequate and non-transparent procedures for a journal to be removed from a blacklist after improving a journal. For this reason blacklists are often inaccurate and out of date. This risk is even more prominent for one of the lists in the PeerJ study, Bealls list, which has officially stopped to exist but has been resurrected by some people with very unclear policies regarding updates, inclusion and removal of journals from the revived list. In addition, blacklists can never be inclusive, while whitelists are inclusive (ie. most journals in the whitelist will be of good quality while many blacklisted journals will not be predatory at all).
It will not come as a surprise that we strongly recommend to users to use whitelists and not blacklists to check the quality of journals. Let it also be clear that we do not believe in any complementary nature between both list types and there is another important difference between the (DOAJ) whitelist and blacklists: in contrast to blacklists, DOAJ is not in the business of stigmatizing publishers, rather we spend substantial resources helping journals to improve.