Myth-busting: DOAJ indexes “predatory” journals

This is, of course, a myth.

Some people are afraid to use DOAJ because they believe that it lists questionable (“predatory”) journals. DOAJ started to clean up its index in 2014. DOAJ was the first service to define the standards aimed at preserving the quality and trustworthiness of a database of open access journals. Today, DOAJ’s standards are the unofficial gold standard for open access journals.

Raising the bar
Early in 2013, DOAJ’s team decided that the problem of questionable journals—at that time proliferating from India in particular—needed to be tackled.  DOAJ’s inclusion criteria were not adequate enough to filter out journals of dubious character. By October 2013, the three countries with the most journals in DOAJ were the USA, Brazil and India. In December 2013, the number of journals in DOAJ passed the 10 000 mark for the first time: the number of journals from the “USA”* (1247) and India (652) had risen sharply and faster than any other country.

Work on a new set of criteria for inclusion in DOAJ started in early 2013; this was developed, reviewed by the Advisory Board and eventually sent out for public consultation in June 2013. After extensive development work, the new application form built around the criteria was made live in March 2014. The new criteria, a work that had involved the whole open access community, increased the DOAJ application form from just 17 questions to today’s 58.

At that point, every single journal in DOAJ was made to reapply under the new criteria, to be re-indexed. This was more effective at improving the level of quality in DOAJ than we could ever anticipate.

*A typical questionable publishing trait is to pretend that a journal is registered in Global North countries, particularly the USA.

Effective criteria
DOAJ has developed rigorous checks to ensure a very high level of quality of every journal in its index.

One of the most effective checks, which delivered considerable changes in the geographic distribution of journals in the database, is insisting that a journal is listed in the country that its business activities are carried out.

Compared to other indexes that are often cited in research on scholarly publishing and open access, it is safe to say that DOAJ is probably the cleanest and most reliable, especially in the context of questionable publishing. To back up that statement, DOAJ is carrying out its research, comparing some well-known indexes. More details on that will be published here very soon.

Joint initiatives
To highlight its approach to creating a list of quality journals, to reinforce its position on questionable publishing and to emphasise the importance of standards as an effective tool to helping to identify good journals, DOAJ co-authored the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice, first released in December 2013.

DOAJ is also a founding organisation of the innovative campaign, Think. Check. Submit.

Old stains are hard to wash away
The problem of questionable publishing is vastly exaggerated. For those who still insist that DOAJ is filled with questionable journals, we would ask you to take a closer look at the database today, review our criteria and read the research on both the problem of questionable publishing and how prolific it isn’t.

If you do think that a journal in DOAJ is questionable, however, please report that journal to us so that our Questionable Publishing team can review it.

Quality of DOAJ listed journals

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.

Tom Olijhoek – DOAJ Editor in Chief

Are we overestimating the problem of “predatory” publishing?

In order to unravel the unjustified association of open access with bad or even predatory publishing Tom Olijhoek and Jon Tennant wrote this blog post, recently published in the LSE Impact Blog.
Last summer an international association of investigative journalists launched a massive media offensive on the problem of predatory publishing in science. The data shown were taken from the 2015 study by Cenyu Shen and Bo-Christer Björk, but without proper reference to it.
The study launched by the association of investigative journalists suggests a link between predatory publishing and open access publishing, and that the problem is huge.
However, according to Tom Olijhoek, the DOAJ Editor-in-Chief, and Jon Tennant, a leading voice in and advocate of open science, the facts tell a different story: predatory publishing does also exist in toll-access journals, and the total revenue of predatory open access publishers is 0,5 – 1,5 % of the total revenues of open access publishers.
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment here.

DOAJ does not endorse Academics Era conferences | Say Hello to Think Check Attend

It has come to our attention that a series of conferences hosted by Academics Era all show the DOAJ logo in the Indexed/Supported section of each conference page. There are literally hundreds of these conferences listed from the Academics Era homepage and each one has the DOAJ logo on it.

DOAJ DOES NOT SUPPORT OR ENDORSE ANY OF THESE CONFERENCES.

Please make sure that you, researchers, students and faculty at your institution think very carefully before sending money to these, or any conferences.

thinkcheckattend

This message is timely as it gives me the opportunity to introduce Think Check Attend.

Think Check Attend is an initiative that guides researchers and scholars when deciding whether to attend a conference or submit an abstract and present their research. The 3-step approach encourages academics to ‘Think’ about the problem posed by predatory or substandard conferences, ‘Check’ the conference against a set of criteria designed to highlight attributes of good and bad quality conferences, and ‘Attend’ only if the conference adheres to the criteria consistent with a legitimate conference.

The initiative is provided by Knowledge E and has been endorsed by Think Check Submit as a sister initiative.

If you are unsure about any conference, then do go to the Think Check Attend website and use their excellent resources.

WARNING: doaj.co, doaj.net

 

Two URLs have been brought to our attention which I wanted to alert the community to. The first, doaj.co, has been made to look just like DOAJ and the second, doaj.net, has been set up to look like a journal. Please be extremely wary of both of these URLs. Neither of these sites are related to DOAJ or are sanctioned by DOAJ in any way.

doaj.co is clearly a bad screen scrape of our site. At the time of writing, it has no functionality whatsoever. We have made contact with the site owner but have received no response.

doaj.net purports to be a journal. DOAJ does not publish journal content and has no connection whatsoever with the company, Modern European Researches(!), which claims to be behind doaj.net.

It has become almost standard practice when registering a URL to buy up all of the alternatives or variants. This is a costly process (and extremely lucrative for some!) and something for which DOAJ doesn’t have the funds. The best we can do is monitor what variants on our URL are up to and alert our community to anything suspicious.

If you spot any other doaj URL variants then do please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Dom Mitchell
Operations Manager

WARNING: Avanti, Avantipub.com, Avanti Publishers

Two members of the research community have brought to our attention a series of scam emails which have been sent out to researchers and authors, inviting recipients to submit their articles to DOAJ. The sender of the email is martin@avantipub.com, apparently a Professor Martin at the ‘University of California, Berkeley’.

The body of the email reads:

‘Dear xxx,

Please check our latest article in DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals).
Integrin Linked Kinase is Necessary for Medial Edge Epithelia Transformation During Palatal Fusion.

If you wish to publish your article absolutely free with out any cost in DOAJ then feel free to contact us.

We look forward to your positive response.

Regards,

Prof. Martin (D.B) , MD., Ph. D.
University of California, Berkeley
USA
Tel: +1-734-800-6319
Email: martin@avantipub.com’

Please be aware that these emails are NOT from DOAJ and neither are they sanctioned by DOAJ. DOAJ has not provided email addresses to Avanti. (We have no record of either of the email addresses of the two researchers who contacted us.) DOAJ does not publish any original content and only indexes article abstracts. DOAJ does not send out marketing emails. The article mentioned is not, and never has been, indexed in DOAJ.

For those that are interested, you can read more about Avanti at Scam Advisor: https://www.scamadviser.com/check-website/avantipub.com

If you have received such an email, then do let us know by leaving a comment here or by contacting us at feedback@doaj.org.

Are you publishing in a proper journal?

This is a guest post by Vrushali Dandawate, DOAJ Ambassador, India.

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All over the world researchers are spending their time in writing research papers, and everyone wants his or her work to be widely recognised. Most of the time researchers are in a hurry to  publish their research papers, so they may not pay attention to whether they are publishing in a proper journal. Unintentionally many researchers are submitting their research papers to questionable  journals (also known as predatory journals).

1. You may get spam emails or marketing materials from the editor inviting you to publish a paper in their journals.

2. These journals give you a guarantee to publish your paper within a very limited time period.

3. No proper information is given on journal peer review policy.

4. No affiliations are provided for editorial board members, and sometimes editors are listed without their knowledge or permission

5. These journals may not be dedicated to one discipline, but instead publish on a wide range of subjects within one journal.

What is the solution?

As a researcher, academician or librarian you must be able to identify questionable publications.

There are guidelines, tools and services available to help you to avoid publishing with questionable  journals, and to choose a proper journal for your paper.

1 Think Check Submit

This website helps researchers to identify appropriate journals in which to publish their research.

2 Directory of Open Access Journals

DOAJ is a curated index of open access peer reviewed journals that is used by institutions all over the world as a guide to trusted journals where you can safely publish your paper.

3  Open Access Journal Platforms

Developing country authors can also choose to publish their article in journals available in aggregation platforms such as African Journals Online (AJOL), SciELO and Redalyc. Journals are evaluated according to a number of criteria regarding their publishing practices before they can be included in AJOL.

4  AuthorAID

AuthorAID is working to increase the success rate of developing country researchers in achieving publication, and to increase the visibility and influence of research in the developing world. AuthorAID achieves these objectives through networking, resources, training and mentoring. Membership is free, and you can find a mentor through the AuthorAID database or by asking the AuthorAID discussion list about experiences of particular journals.

Find a mentor to publish your research

http://www.authoraid.info/en/mentoring/

References

http://www.redalyc.org/

http://scielo.org/php/index.php?lang=en

http://www.inasp.info/en/work/authoraid/

http://www.inasp.info/en/work/journals-online/

http://thinkchecksubmit.org/

https://doaj.org/