“The Tick” is now live!

Now it’s easier to see which journals were accepted into the DOAJ under our new criteria, in other words, after March 2014. I posted a piece earlier this year where I explained that all journals accepted into DOAJ after that date would be marked with a green tick. We have now completed that work and “The Tick” is live on the site.

For every qualifying journal, The Tick appears in two places: in search results, alongside the journal’s name; and on the journal’s table of contents page.

 

The Tick in search results

The Tick in search results alongside the journal name

The Tick on a journal ToC page

The Tick on a journal’s table of contents page

(If you can’t see the Tick, then you will need to refresh the page: Ctrl +F5 on a PC, Cmd + R on a Mac.)

Proactive not reactive

Earlier this week, Nature News & Comment published a piece about the DOAJ under the heading ‘Open-access website gets tough‘.

We are happy about the exposure but there are a couple of things to address.

1) Coming to the end of a process started in December 2012

The process of drafting new, tougher criteria started way before the so-called “Science sting” which found problems in the peer review process of many of the questionable open access journals deliberately selected for the study.

IS4OA (www.is4oa.org) officially took over the responsibility for DOAJ on 1st January 2013 but it announced on 18th December 2012 that one of the most important things it would do was to ensure the implementation of stronger selection criteria for journals to be included—and to stay included—in the DOAJ. This was primarily to make it easier for authors to find a proper open access journal in which to publish their work. It makes it easier also for research funders, universities and managers of open access publication funds to make an informed decision on which open access journals comply with their policies in terms of licensing, archiving and APCs. In June 2013, after input from the DOAJ Advisory Board, I tweeted that a draft of the new criteria was available for public comment:

The draft received a lot of attention and constructive input from the community and the new application form finally went live in March this year, after a platform migration and a good deal of development.

All new journals wishing to be indexed in DOAJ and all journals indexed currently have to complete the form and then pass a much more rigorous and detailed evaluation. All the information provided by the journals will eventually be publicly available and searchable, further empowering the community to make better decisions re which open access journal to publish in and to help the DOAJ team monitor compliance. At time of writing, 231 journals have been accepted into the DOAJ under these new criteria.

Naturally, this change means much more evaluation is needed per application—multiplying current operations by a factor of 10—so DOAJ put out a call in January 2014 for voluntary editors to assist in the (re)-evaluation of the journals. The call generated 250 applications from researchers, PhDs, professors, librarians and academic publishing professionals from more than 30 countries mastering more than 30 languages. For DOAJ to achieve its vision of being a truly global service, extending coverage around the world, this is an important landmark.

With further development, DOAJ has also implemented a 3-tier evaluation process which will, as far as possible, filter out any questionable journals. This process will take time, especially since 99% of the 9939 journals have to be re-evaluated. We expect the process to be completed late 2015.

2) Even more vital to the community

The DOAJ Team knows for a fact that these efforts are taking DOAJ in the right direction that will ensure it continues to meet the needs of the public. It has already had excellent feedback on the new developments via social media channels, via training sessions held by Redalyc throughout South America and from its sponsors and supporters. It is also known that many university open access publication funds list inclusion in the DOAJ as being one of the criteria for a successful funding request. Furthermore, someone looking for a quality, peer-reviewed, open access journal in their field is more likely to start their search with the DOAJ list of journals, than with any other list; a curated list of reputable journals that uses a 3-tier review process, that harnesses the skills and expertise of the community and that requires 48 pieces of different information from an applicant before a journal can be considered for inclusion.

All the improvements above add up to a dramatic change for the DOAJ and the way it operates. It can only continue this approach if the communities that use and value DOAJ continue to support it. DOAJ has been operating entirely on financial support and is one of the oldest community funded, open access infrastructure services. Along with its sponsors, more than 100 university libraries, 15 library consortia and others already support DOAJ financially but more are needed! Become part of this impressive group of sponsors and supporters by going to http://doaj.org/supportDoaj and donating.

A few notes about our legacy data

We regularly receive notification that DOAJ data has been used for analysis; analysis done by publishers, librarians, students, technologists, bloggers and many others. That the data is central to so many studies continues to reinforce the importance of the DOAJ in the open access movement. We are confident that, once our current upgrade is complete, and when all the existing journals have been re-evaluated, DOAJ will provide data of an even higher quality that is incomparable to the “old” DOAJ; that is updated more frequently and of a previously unseen level of granularity. It will be a dataset monitored by a large, international network of Associate Editors and Editors, consistently checking and reviewing.

That the data is so regularly used places a responsibility at DOAJ’s door to ensure that the level of data quality is high. This is a responsibility that we take seriously and so I thought it worth clarifying a few points about the DOAJ data.

 

“This site is undergoing maintenance”

The data in the DOAJ database has been collected over a 10 year period and in those last 10 years, not only has the data been through several migrations and transformations but we have seen the size of DOAJ grow from 300 to just short of 10 000 journals. That rate of growth is increasing year on year. This means that we have a large amount of legacy data.

In 2013, we announced that, in response to the changing nature of open access, we would change significantly the inclusion criteria for journals to be listed in the DOAJ, developing our back-end systems accordingly to match the dramatic increase in the resulting workload.  The Community was involved as we sought opinion on the changes we should make. The changes needed amounted to a huge piece of development which required certain activities to be put on hold. Additionally, DOAJ migrated platform in December 2013 so the routine activities of adding journals, removing journals and adding article metadata had to be placed on hold. (Adding new journals was eventually on hold for just over 4 months; removing journals for just under 3.) It wasn’t without a good reason though. DOAJ was migrated to an open source, standards based stable database, hosted by our technical partners Cottage Labs. This also necessitated a substantial clean up of the legacy data.

The result of such a huge project meant that the usual level of data maintenance by our Editorial Team decreased. It didn’t stop – during the first quarter of 2014, 92 journals were earmarked for removal – but for a few months, the public view of DOAJ remained relatively static because the usual weeding and refining was on hold for a few months. There are still areas of the DOAJ data that we know needs to be reviewed and corrected.

Previously, not all information was compulsory

A publisher applying for a journal to be included in the old DOAJ was only required to provide 6 initial pieces of information. Once accepted, the publisher was encouraged to return to the site to provide further information about the journal. One such piece of information was the author processing charge (APC). This is clearly an important piece of information that authors, in particular, like to know up front. Therefore we took the opportunity, when we were designing the new application form, to raise the visibility of this information, require it on application and make it a compulsory question. Naturally, this means that our legacy data has holes in it which need to be filled. All the new journals applying for inclusion after March 19th 2014 have already answered this question. Once we start the re-application process, the ~9700 existing journals in DOAJ will have to answer this question. This process is scheduled to begin in the 3rd quarter of 2014.

All DOAJ data is publisher-provided

While we can force an answer to a question in a web form, we cannot force someone to return to DOAJ and update their information. Of course, information changes over time and often we find that publishers have forgotten to update us. Our system of regular review – our aim is that every journal be reviewed at least once a year – hopes to catch these changes and correct them as quickly as possible. Our new network of Associate Editors will do this more efficiently and pro-actively than ever before but we still encourage the community to get in touch when it spots things that seem to differ. The community can play an important role as our eyes and ears and we encourage that.

 

We first announced the start of our transition period back in October 2013. Since then we have been very open, not only about our progress and development plans but also about the effects that the work would have on the DOAJ itself. Hopefully, with this post I have given you a little more detail as to why there may be inaccuracies in the DOAJ, what we have done to address those and what we will continue to do as our database develops.

We appreciate the patience and support from the community! As always, do please get in touch should you have questions or comments.

 

A progress report from DOAJ

Since we opened our new application form on 19th March 2014, 187 new journals have been accepted into the DOAJ. All 187 journals meet the new and extended DOAJ criteria, as required by the new application form. 13 applications have been rejected outright and a further 127 applications are pending further information or clarification from the publisher. In the same period, the number of journals removed from DOAJ, because they failed to meet DOAJ criteria, is 9. This is on top of the 92 journals that were removed in the first quarter of 2014.

Even though the DOAJ application form grew from 6 to 56 questions, the simple fact that we now request more information from a publisher upfront means that our editorial team is able to assess a journal’s honesty, transparency and value more effectively than before. With the Associate Editors and Editors coming on board, we will be well prepared for the existing ~9700 journals already in DOAJ when they begin the reapplication process.

We currently estimate that the reapplication process will begin in earnest in the 3rd quarter of this year.  We will email every publisher to let them know when they may reapply. By the end of 2014, we hope to have a large number of journals reapplied and re-accepted into DOAJ.

[Updated 18th August 2014]

Some minor edits to the Application form

Thanks to feedback from the community, we’ve been able to make some small changes and clarifications to the Application form.

We haven’t changed anything that affects the information required by the form but we have changed some of the Help texts and, hopefully, made the task of filling out the form slightly simpler.

The following changes that we made are of particular note:

  • Questions 4 & 5: changed ‘ISSN’ and ‘EISSN’ to “ISSN (print version)” and “ISSN (online version)” and …
  • … changed the help text to: ‘Only provide the print ISSN if your journal has one, otherwise leave this field blank. Write the ISSN with the hyphen “-” e.g. 1234-4321.’
  • Question 19: changed the question text to: ‘How many research and review articles did the journal publish in the last calendar year?’
  • Question 34: changed the Help text from ‘The journal must have either an editor or an editorial board with at least 5 clearly identifiable members, affiliation information and email addresses.’ to ‘The journal must have either an editor or an editorial board with at least 5 clearly identifiable members and affiliation information. We will ask for email addresses as part of our checks.’

Why do we ask for email addresses?

Asking journals to display email addresses on a web site can be a sensitive issue. We are fully aware of the implications of posting email addresses, privacy and spamming. So, even though it is possible to write email addresses in a non-crawlable way, thereby protecting the owner from unsolicited mail, we will no longer require publishers to display email addresses on the site unless they are already doing so. We will instead look for the information on the site or ask for URLs for five editorial board members. And don’t worry: no e-mail addresses that we receive will ever be displayed on DOAJ and we never reuse these email addresses for our own use. The data is safe with us.

You may wonder why we ask for email addresses in the first place? As we carry out our assessment on a journal’s quality, one of the key pieces of information that we look for is that the journal has a clearly identifiable editorial board as per the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing joint statement that we published with WAME, COPE and OASPA. Verifying email addresses for editorial board members gives us one extra piece of evidence that the members come from the Institution that the journal says they come from and allows us to contact them to confirm that they have accepted to be on the editorial board.

What do we mean by ‘research’ and ‘review’ articles?

For those smaller journals, publishing perhaps only a handful of articles a year, we will carefully look at the types of articles they are publishing to make sure that the journal content is high quality original research. For those journals publishing case reports, you may count them as original research articles if they focus on more than 3 cases in the analytical activity.

When providing the number of articles published, you may round down to the nearest 10.

DOAJ publishes lists of journals removed and added

One of our improved services to the community is increased transparency. Accordingly, we have decided to publish a list of the journals added to and removed from our directory.

Read the list. [Opens in new tab/window.]

The lists are split over two tabs of the same spreadsheet.

The list of journals removed starts from the beginning of the 2014. Because we were undergoing development, we were unable to ADD new journals for the first quarter of this year. However, we were able to remove journals so, as part of our regular weeding and reviewing, a good number of journals were removed during this time. The list includes journal title, ISSN, date removed and the reason.

The list of journals added starts from 19th March 2014. ALL the journals added after this date have met the NEW criteria as required by our new application form. You can read our press release from 19th March 2014. The list includes journal title, ISSN and date added.

[UPDATE: this document now contains a third sheet/tab showing a list of rejected applications.]

So that the community can easily recognise those journals that have met the new criteria, we will mark them with this symbol:

DOAJ accepted logo

Denotes those journals that have been accepted into DOAJ based on the new, extended criteria

The symbol will appear alongside a journal title in search results and on a journal’s Issues page. We will make further announcements when we are ready with this feature.

As ever, get in touch if you have questions!

 

UPDATED: 28th August 2014