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.

Myth-busting: Journals must meet the DOAJ Seal criteria to be indexed in DOAJ

This is a myth.

There is a common misunderstanding that for a journal to have its application accepted and be indexed in DOAJ it must meet all the criteria for the DOAJ Seal. There is an assumption, born out of that misunderstanding, that journals in DOAJ without the Seal are of inferior quality. This is also a myth.

What ‘Indexed in DOAJ’ means
Being indexed in DOAJ means that a journal application has passed our editorial review. Editorial review consists of an investigation by the DOAJ Editorial team and our volunteers who have researched whether or not the journal and its publisher do what they claim to do on the journal site and in their application to us. The investigation consists of checking all of the 50+ answers in an application to make sure that the information on the website is easy to find, clearly and accurately presented and matches the application. The editorial board is scrutinised and sometimes members of the board are contacted and their institutional connections verified, their work on the board is confirmed and which other boards that member sits on.

Being indexed in DOAJ means that the journal adheres to high levels of quality in its publishing services and services to authors and users, including: peer review, licensing terms, a strong open access statement, a fully functional editorial board and more. Being indexed in DOAJ means that the journal is a trusted open access journal and, in fact, many do meet one or more of the Seal criteria.

 

What the DOAJ Seal means
The DOAJ Seal is a stamp of quality. Journals that are awarded the Seal have verified that they correctly fulfil all seven criteria that DOAJ has chosen specifically as indicators of a Logo for the DOAJ Seal.clear commitment to open access best practices, of high levels of commitment to publishing standards and best practices, and that the open access model they adhere to is the most open.

 

The Seal has been allocated to just over 10% of the journals accepted into DOAJ since 2014. In some cases, the Seal has been withdrawn because the journal can no longer fulfil all seven criteria.

Journals cannot apply for the DOAJ Seal. The Seal is awarded after careful assessment of the journal website. If you think that your journal qualifies for the Seal, you should contact us to have it assessed.

It is important to remember that, whether they have the Seal or not, all journals in the DOAJ have met our criteria for inclusion as trusted, quality, open access journals.

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.

Why do we ask applicants to wait 6 months before they apply again?

When we reject an application, the rejection email contains details about why the application was not successful and usually tells applicants that they must wait 6 months before submitting another application for the same journal to us. Why do we do this?

One reason is that it is an attempt to discourage repeat applications, made in haste, and we get many, many of those. Repeat and duplicate applications clog up the system and take our dedicated volunteers and team away from those applications which need some time spent on them. (In 10 months alone, DOAJ received 221 duplicate applications!)

The other reason is that many of the recommendations that we make in our rejection emails, recommendations made to help journals meet our criteria, take time to implement. Adding words to a website isn’t enough. Changes need to be implemented properly, communicated to stakeholders, tested, and managed. Some changes will require other parties to implement changes too. This all takes time. After the 6 months has passed, we welcome a new application but we ask that the journal website demonstrates very clearly that our recommendations have been put into practice and our editorial team will be very careful to check that all our recommendations have been implemented.

How to submit a complete and quality application. A Webinar on the DOAJ.

This invitation is for Scholarly Journal Editors/Publishers/Librarians/Other, in the southern and eastern African regions, to attend a webinar on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
About DOAJ
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) – launched in 2003 at Lund University, Sweden – is a centrally, publicly and internationally available community-curated list of high quality open access journal titles across all disciplines. It aims to be the starting point for all information searches for quality, peer-reviewed open access material.
About the webinar
The webinar will try to address the requirements a high quality, scholarly journal should adhere to, as well as the process involved to be acknowledged through being recorded in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
Date: Friday, 12 August 2016
Time: 09:00-10:00 SA Time (UCT + 02:00) (Time Zone Converter)
Venue: Virtual via your Chrome/Firefox Internet Browser. More details to follow once you have registered for the webinar.
Requirements: Stable Internet, most recent version of Chrome/Firefox Internet Browser, Sound
Costs: None
Please register by 10 August 2016, by completing the following online form: https://goo.gl/forms/TWcqh9KZHsjTDoZi1
We are looking very much forward to you joining us for this webinar, in trying to address quality in scholarly journal publishing in the southern African region.