The Keepers Registry is now available on the ISSN portal

This is a guest post by Gaëlle Bequet, Director of the ISSN International Centre. ISSN is a partner of DOAJ.


KeepersLogotype_BD

As of December 2019, the ISSN International Centre is the sole operator of the Keepers Registry. This service aggregates preservation metadata and ISSN descriptive metadata to report the archival status of digital journals. The Keepers Registry is now fully integrated with the ISSN Portal. The latter provides a complete and accurate overview of a serial title’s journey from initial publication to transfer of responsibility and to long-term preservation by archiving agencies. The ISSN Portal is indeed the authoritative database for serial title identification and tracking.

Both libraries and publishers want easy and persistent access to scholarly materials across the Internet. The shift from print to digital format for all types of continuing resources, particularly journals, and the need to archive not just digital serials but also ongoing ‘integrating resources’ is a challenge. Archiving agencies are addressing this challenge and supporting the Keepers Registry as a tool to monitor the archival status of digital content.

Craig Van Dyck, Executive Director of CLOCKSS, USA, posits that “The Keepers Registry performs several critical functions: exposing information about which scholarly journals are preserved, and which volumes, and by which preservation archives; providing a normalized platform for users to find the information, and for archives to integrate with; and a social structure for archives to come together to collaborate. Digital preservation is an evolving field, and collaboration is key to moving forward. The ISSN International Centre makes a lot of sense as a home for the Keepers Registry.”

The Keepers Registry collects preservation metadata, supplied on a regular basis by 13 archiving agencies globally. National libraries, non-profit organisations, academic consortia cooperate with the ISSN International Centre to disseminate up-to-date information about archived serial titles and titles at risk.

Jeffrey van der Hoeven, Head of the Digital Preservation department at the Nationale Bibliotheek van Nederland (KB), Netherlands, explains that “From the perspective of long-term preservation, the Keepers Registry fulfills an important role for KB in determining the integrity of its collection”.

Grant Hurley, Digital Preservation Librarian at Scholars Portal, Canada, states that “The Keepers Registry is a crucial component of our collective preservation ecosystem. Keepers Registry gives its stakeholders the ability to evaluate what materials are being preserved and by whom, and therefore, what materials may still be at risk. As a preservation service provider, Scholars Portal benefits from exposing its holdings data in a consistent and reliable way, which ensures its preservation practices are transparent and supports the trust of its user communities.”

Our partner archiving agencies are: Archaeology Data Service, British Library, Cariniana Network, CLOCKSS Archive, Global LOCKSS Network, HathiTrust, Library of Congress, National Digital Reservation Program China, National Library of the Netherlands, PKP Preservation Network, Portico, Scholars Portal, Swiss National Library.

Keepers Registry is available for free through the ISSN Portal.

For information about specific professional services or to join the Keepers Registry as an archiving agency, please contact the ISSN International Centre (Email: sales@issn.org)

India MCI includes DOAJ on the list of medical databases

Blog post by our Managing Editor, Leena Shah.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) In one of its recent announcements on 12th Feb 2020 has amended the “Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998 ” to add a list of medical databases and indexes for aspiring medical professionals to publish their articles. We are very happy to say that this announcement includes DOAJ as one of the options along with other medical databases like Medline, PubmedCentral, etc.

DOAJ is a dynamic growing index and currently lists about 1295 quality, peer reviewed, open access medical journals of which approximately 800 journals do not have any article processing charges. Follow the simple steps below to find the journals in DOAJ:

Step 1 – click on the search button https://doaj.org/search

Step 2 – choose “journals” on the left facet

Step 3 – Under Subject choose Medicine [ 785]  or Medicine (general) [510]

Step 4 (optional) – Click on “NO” under APC to find journals that do not have APC

 

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Guest post: Being a volunteer at DOAJ

Interview with Xiaotian Chen, Electronic Services Librarian / Associate Professor at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA and Editor at DOAJ.

Chen 2019 (2)

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.

Guest post: Creating value for peer review. Why not?

DOAJ has approximately 100 volunteers carrying out important reviewing work for it. These volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds within academia, journal publishing or from libraries. DOAJ relies on these volunteers to keep applications flowing through the system.

In the first of a new series, we are highlighting our volunteers’ skills and interests which are connected to scholarly publishing. This is a guest post by Alessandro Pierno, DOAJ Associate Editor and Head of the Editorial Board for ReviewerCredits.


image001  Creating value for peer review. Why not?

The peer review process is the cornerstone of scientific communication and should be considered as a key performance indicator (KPI) for scientists given the fact that, by its nature, the task demands time, knowledge and professionalism.

Still, lack of recognition for the peer reviewing work is an unsolved issue which certainly contributes to the shortage of scientists accepting the task. At the same time, with the growth of open access and the “pay to publish” model, journals need to prove the reliability and trustworthiness of their peer review process. It is clear that reviewers, journals and publishers would greatly benefit from an efficient system, rewarding reviewers and validating journals. These considerations triggered a growing interest with companies like ORCID and Publons which started offering authors the opportunity to add reviews that they had performed to their scientific profile. Going one step further, we think that adding a tangible benefit to the peer reviewing work would represent the real game-changer in the field. 

The ReviewerCredits solution

ReviewerCredits.com (RC) keeps a verified history of all reviews performed by each registered reviewer, and – for each verified review – assigns a number of credits, which can be used in a “virtual store” representing, for the first time ever, a tangible benefit. After completing the review of a scientific paper, reviewers log in to the portal and enter a completed review claim for any journal (whether registered with RC or not). RC verifies that the review has been performed by asking a confirmation from the journal’s editorial office. This step is critical in order to create a reliable and traceable history of activity performed. The review is added to the scientist’s personal account earning a variable number of “credits”.

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Furthermore, journals using PKP’s Open Journal Systems for article submission and review can now integrate a free plugin which allows a direct transfer of the claim to the RC platform.

Finally, RC has the ability to add to the author profile any talk delivered during scientific conferences, complementing the information available on the author.

What is unique in ReviewerCredits?

There are three major assets that make ReviewerCredits really unique: 

(a) all reviews claimed must be certified by the Journal Editor and so 100% of the data are double checked and there is no room for inaccuracy or improper claims; 

(b) performing reviews means accruing credits that can be exchanged for benefits across a number of journals and services; 

(c) conference talks can be added to the author profile.

What are the benefits?

The first advantage is that registered scientists will be able to record in one single place all their certified reviews, as well as conference activity. A PDF certificate can be downloaded at any time and will list all the activity performed in chronological order. Additionally, as RC assigns virtual credits, they can use their credits to access selected, discounted services, specifically tailored for authors.

Registered journals benefit from transparency and higher engagement from their reviewers. By rewarding reviewers on behalf of journals, RC creates value for the work they perform, thus helping to motivate them and contributing to reducing the burden on journal Editors. Journals can take an active part in the process supported by RC registering their journal and encouraging their peer reviewers to record their completed reviews.

RC provides a valuable qualifier for a journal by documenting that proper peer review is performed before acceptance of manuscripts. This is particularly relevant at a time when the explosive growth of low quality or questionable journals (journals who accept any manuscript, independently of their quality, for a fee and  provide little or no peer review) is making journal selection very difficult for authors outside the top indexed journals. 

In RC the peer review activity performed by each journal is clearly visible to all and can be shared with a PDF certificate, listing all confirmed reviews performed on behalf of the journal. This is a huge asset for journals wanting to be transparent and it does not affect the confidentiality of review comments.

In conclusion, the topic of recognition of peer review has finally reached the spotlight due to the initiatives of Orcid, Publons and others recently highlighted by Peer Review Week. In this evolving scenario reviewercredits.com can contribute to creating real value for peer reviewers.

 

About ReviewerCredits
ReviewerCredits is a spin-off company endorsed by the University of Milan-Bicocca, launched in 2016. Its core business is the development, maintenance and upgrade of an online platform which has the purpose of certifying peer reviews and conference talks. ReviewerCredits is listed as an innovative startup company in the Italian company register. It was co-founded by two academic researchers, Giacomo Bellani, and Robert Fruscio with a growing team of experts in digital entrepreneurship and STM publishing (Veronica Mariani, Alessandro Pierno, Lucia Steele and Giulio Zuanetti).

Guest post: Overview of the African Open Access Landscape, with a Focus on Scholarly Publishing

Photo of Ina Smith, DOAJ Ambassador for Southern AfricaThis is a guest post by Ina Smith, our Ambassador for Southern Africa.

Ina managed the pilot  for the African Open Science Platform project from October 2016 until October 2019. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) in Computer-Integrated Education, a Higher Education Teaching Diploma, and two degrees (BBibl and BBibl Honors) in Library and Information Science. She is Planning Manager at the Academy of Science of South Africa, and has vast experience of Open Access in general, Open Science, scholarly research activities, repositories, and Open Access journal management and publishing. Ina is the DOAJ ambassador in the region of Southern Africa.


This article reports on selected findings from the pilot African Open Science Platform landscape study, conducted by the Academy of Science of South Africa, on request of the SA Department of Science and Technology, and funded by the National Research Foundation. Direction was provided by CODATA (International Science Council).

1. Introduction

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) – during October 2016 until October 2019, conducted a landscape study (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019) of what is happening on the continent in terms of Open Science and progress made regarding Open Access. This formed part of the pilot African Open Science Platform, in preparation of building an actual platform addressing the collaborative needs experienced by scientists in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Awareness regarding Open Access is evident through the

Main findings on the status of Open Access scholarly journals on the continent, as well as factors contributing to the current status, are shared below.

2. Low commitment towards science, policy, incentives and infrastructure by African governments

It is estimated that Africa produces only around 0.74% of global scientific knowledge. Low levels of political willingness among African countries to make funding available towards advancing science, is at the core of this low level of contribution. From the landscape study, only 35 out of 54 African Union member countries (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019) demonstrate some level of commitment to science through its investment in research and development (R&D), academies of science, ministries of science and technology, policies, recognition of research, and participation in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI). Only two African countries (Kenya and South Africa) at this stage contribute 0.8% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to R&D (Research and Development), which is the closest to the AU’s (African Union’s) suggested 1%. Countries such as Lesotho and Madagascar ranked as 0%, while the R&D expenditure for 24 African countries is unknown (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019).

2.1 Policies lacking and not harmonised

National Open Access policies are positioned within a broader regulatory framework, together with policies for intellectual property rights (IPR), research ethics policies, policies for STI, funding policies, HE policies and ICT policies.

According to the UNECA 2018 Sustainable Development Report, there are low levels of organisation and funding of many science systems in Africa. Although there are efforts towards aligning IP, ICT and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies on the continent with one another and with international policies, African governments still have a long way to go. Apart from developing the relevant policies, policies need to be aligned towards regulatory convergence, the environment required to implement the policies needs to be conducive, and accountability needs to be built into all policies.

The African Observatory of Science and Technology Indicators (AOSTI) were established in 2011 by the African Union to help African countries to build capacity for STI policy activities and initiatives. The AOSTI report on the Assessment of Scientific Production in the African Union, 2005–2010 recommended “creating open and free access publication outlets for Africa, with improved review committees” (African Union African Observatory of Science Technology and Innovation, 2014) and highlighted the challenge of high article fee requirements for publishing in citation-indexed journals and the high subscription prices to commercially available databases.

Policy is a process, and depends on the government of the day. Furthermore, Open Access policies registered in ROARMAP are at institutional level only, and not at national level. Ethiopia is the only African country this far with an Open Access policy on national level, announced and released during October 2019, paving the way for other African countries to hopefully follow suit.  For Open Access policies to be adopted and integrated as part of national Science, Technology and Innovation policies, far more advocacy and awareness initiatives are required across the African continent.

2.2 Insufficient e-Infrastructure

Science globally has become fully dependent on stable ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) infrastructure, which includes connectivity/bandwidth, high performance computing facilities and data services. And so have scholarly journals. Open Access scholarly journals can forget to exist if a stable ICT infrastructure does not exist. Especially where Internet shutdowns (or Internet censorship) is common. From the landscape study, 20 African governments applied some form of Internet censorship 45 times since 2001, of which 36 times the shutdowns related to anti-government related protests.

Academic and research intensive institutions in Africa rely heavily on NRENs (National Research and Educational Networks), which are endorsed by their respective governments and benefit from tax waivers or exemptions, free operator licenses or even Universal Service Funds, e.g. in Uganda and Zambia.

The concern however, is that selected African governments (with the exception of a few countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and others) have low awareness of how the Internet works, how much ICT (and the 4th Industrial Revolution) have affected research, and the added value an NREN – through being connected to fellow NRENs – can bring to higher education and research in addressing the respective needs, which is far more complex than simply providing connectivity (Foley, 2016).  A main threat to NRENs in selected African countries is commercial public ISPs influencing governments, sometimes creating the impression that NRENs offer nothing more than what commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer. Galagan and Looijen (2015) confirm that each of the NRENs and Regional RENs have their own political, financial and other challenges. The main challenge is the unaffordability of telecoms’ pricing in many markets across the continent. Private industry Internet service providers (ISPs) have monopolies in many African countries (especially in Central and West Africa), closing down access to cable landing stations, which keep Internet connectivity very expensive in these countries within a closed market and not allowing other competitors to enter the market. This makes collaboration and participation with other NRENs, collaboration and sharing among researchers, and the publishing of Open Access journals, almost impossible in those countries.

Of the 36 African countries with NRENs1, 17 NRENs are connected to the global Research and Education Network, while 19 are not yet connected (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019).

In addition to Internet censorship and the threat commercial ISPs bring, power outages on the continent interrupting Internet service delivery is a further challenge, resulting in interrupting the flow of science. Africa has enormous infrastructure gaps, including broadband infrastructure, and access to broadband services, where they exist, is also very expensive (Economic Commission for Africa, 2017). Moreover, personal connectivity costs remain extremely high in most African countries (Alliance for Affordable Internet, 2017). Issues of connectivity are further complicated by ageing and unreliable power infrastructure and frequent power outages.

2.3 Skills shortage

In addition to a general lack of awareness of Open Access – especially at government level, there is also very low awareness around the availability of open source scholarly publishing platforms such as PKP Open Journal Systems (OJS) and other tools in support of the research and scholarly publishing process. Publishing high quality journals aligned with best practice criteria further needs upskilling, something for which there is a huge demand. Through ASSAf, DOAJ, EIFL, AJOL and efforts of many others, training has been conducted. More resources are however required to not only equip editors, but also reviewers, copy editors, proof-readers and authors with the necessary skills to deliver on high quality trusted Open Access scholarly journals and articles. Open Access online courses and virtual training are possible solutions to address the skills gap, but only if a stable infrastructure and connectivity can be guaranteed.

2.4 Incentivisation is non-existent

Publication-focused metrics are heavily used within African academia as a means of evaluation. This is often only one of very few – if not the only – criteria determining promotion. An unhealthy obsession with publishing in high impact factor journals often result in research conducted to address local problems, ending up in subscription-based journals unaffordable for the very audience it was intended for.

Funding to conduct research remains a challenge. African researchers mostly fund their own research, and there are few incentives for them to make their research and accompanying data sets openly accessible. Funding and peer recognition, along with an enabling ICT enabled research environment conducive for research, are regarded as possible major incentives.

3. Status of scholarly journals published in Africa

There is an increase in the North-South divide; publications not listed on international citation indexes are proven to suffer lower visibility, citation, and effect; and these research results make little or no contribution to the existing body of global knowledge. Furthermore, few African researchers form part of editorial boards of international journals. In some instances, African journals are published by publishers in Europe and North America, resulting in those not being regarded as African journals.

African scholarly journals are often not online available, and leadership on managing journals in a trusted way not available. Through an Ambassador initiative of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), slow progress is being made. More and more, scholarly journals are making the transition to using PKP Open Journal Systems, an Open Source journal workflow solution, to publish journals online.  African Journals Online (AJOL) another initiative, has been working on assisting journals to make the transition from print to online journals. According to DOAJ, 19 African countries representing 196 of the 13 773 journals are currently listed on this index that provides access to high-quality, Open Access, peer-reviewed journals. Until recently, 200+ journals published by Hindawi appeared under Egypt, which would have brought the number of African journals listed in DOAJ to 400+. These journals are now being classified as UK publications due to Hindawi’s move to London.

A notable development towards an Open Science publishing approach is the AAS Open Research mega-journal. Using the F1000 publishing platform, AAS Open Research implements open peer review and requires that data underpinning the research findings should be open by default.

The Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) SA hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) covers a selected collection of peer-reviewed South African scholarly journals, and forms an integral part of the SciELO Brazil project. Journals are considered for inclusion in SciELO SA when they have received a favourable evaluation after being peer-reviewed. This peer-review is coordinated by ASSAf, and occurs in cycles of 5 years. SciELO SA focuses on strengthening the scholarly journal evaluation and accreditation systems in South Africa.

Scienceafrique.org – an initiative by Florence Piron and project SOHA – addresses the need to have a platform to publish scholarly journals and share science in the francophone region. It currently hosts 5 French journals2. The main objective of this platform is to give African researchers (including Haiti) the opportunity to freely and openly share their research and text in their local language, to build quality African science, visible and accessible to all, from the perspective of cognitive justice and serving the common good.

Another important player in advancing equitable scientific partnership with developing Francophone countries in Africa and elsewhere is the French National Research Institute for Development (IRD). Being a French public research institution, “the IRD defends an original model of equitable scientific partnership with the countries of the South and an interdisciplinary and citizen science committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”. The planned IRD “Open science in the South: challenges and perspectives for a new dynamic” symposium (23 – 25 October 2019) “will offer an opportunity to discuss the challenges of open science in developing countries and to present national, international and local incentive policies as well as practical case studies to initiate trends towards open science. It will focus in particular on research in French-speaking countries in the Global South.”

Open Science and Open Access in Arabic countries such as Algeria, are driven by the DGRSDT (General Directorate of Scientific Research and Technological Development). The vast majority of the total of 359 Algerian scholarly journals are only available in print, with 21 available as Open Access and registered in the DOAJ. The DGRSDT strategy includes:

  • training editors in managing and publishing scholarly journals;
  • promote sharing and collaboration among Algerian editors, and
  • promote global collaboration in advancing Open Access.

The aim is for all Algerian journals to make the transition from print to online, and to adhere to the DOAJ criteria for possible inclusion. An Algerian journal portal by the name Webreview has been launched by the Research Centre on Scientific and Technical Information (CERIST) for the science community to publish journals – whether open or restricted access. On institutional level, and similar to South African universities publishing their own journals (e.g. SUNJournals at Stellenbosch University3), many Algerian universities prefer to host and publish their own journals. An example from Algeria is the Université de Béjaïa4 (Belhamel, 2016).

Only one (1) African country thus far is participating in Plan S5 (i.e. the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), Zambia6), while none subscribes to AmeliCA yet.

In response to the portentous need of access to scholarly content by the African research community, an additional SPARC Chapter, SPARC Africa7, has been established and was launched at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Academic and Research Libraries (ARL) Satellite meeting on the 14th August 2015. The Chapter’s primary concerns this far has been to capacitate Africans in academic and research sectors to champion free access to scientific knowledge as a means to alleviate Africa’s lack of access to scholarly content. It further concerns access to Northern output which has the risk of continuing a neo-colonial agenda (Mboa, 2019). The SPARC Africa Open Access Symposium 2019 (4 – 6 December 2019) will be “challenging the open access movement and its advocates with their social justice principles to usher in equity and equal opportunity and to open the doors for full participation of new African voices in the scholarly communication landscape.”

4. Conclusion

For Africa to address its many challenges through Open Access, policies need to be developed, research sharing should be incentivised, provision should be made for skills development, and proper infrastructure and affordable and stable connectivity should be readily available.

A future federated African Open Science Platform (AOSP) in which policies, skills, incentives and infrastructure needs are addressed will not only encourage more collaboration among researchers in addressing the SDGs, but it will also benefit the many stakeholders identified as part of the research process. But only if there is commitment from African governments.

References

  1. Prof Meoli Kashorda, personal email communication on 13 May 2019
  2. https://www.revues.scienceafrique.org/catalog/
  3. https://www.journals.ac.za/
  4. http://www.univ-bejaia.dz/revues
  5. https://www.coalition-s.org/
  6. https://www.coalition-s.org/coalition-s-welcomes-its-first-african-member-and-receives-strong-support-from-the-african-academy-of-sciences/
  7. http://aims.fao.org/activity/blog/sparc-africa-capacitating-africa-towards-access-open-scholarship

Bibliography

Academy of Science of South Africa. (2019). African Open Science Platform – Landscape
Study. Unpublished.

African Union African Observatory of Science Technology and Innovation. (2014). Assessment of Scientific Production in the African Union, 2005–2010. url: http://aosti.org/index.php/component/content/article/88-reports/133-the-state-of-scientific-production-in-the-african-union?Itemid=437

Alliance for Affordable Internet. (2017). Affordability Report. Washington DC. url: https://a4ai.org/

Belhamel, K. (2016). Open Access Journals Strategy in Algeria. url: https://blog.doaj.org/2016/10/06/open-access-journals-strategy-in-algeria/

Economic Commission for Africa. (2017). Towards Improved Access to Broadband in Africa. Addis Ababa. url: https://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/towards_improved_access_to_broadband_inafrica.pdf

Foley, M. (2016). The Role and Status of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. url:  http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/233231488314835003/pdf/113114-NRENSinAfrica-SABER-ICTno05.pdf

Galagan, D. and Looijen, M. (2015). National Research and Education Networks: Analysis of Management Issues. url: http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/inet/99/proceedings/3h/3h_1.htm

Mboa Nkoudou, T. H. (2019). Epistemic alienation in African Scholarly communication: Open access as a Pharmakon. Old Traditions and New Technologies: The Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Open Scholarly Communication. Edited by Eve, M., Gray, J. Cambridge, MIT Press (in Press). url:  https://eve.gd/2019/06/07/old-traditions-and-new-technologies/

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.