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.