DOAJ to assist Research4Life with ensuring the inclusion of quality open access publishers

Research4Life and DOAJ  announce a working partnership that will help to ensure that the users of Research4Life will have access to the largest possible array of open access journals from publishers following a quality standard. The partnership will also help reinforce the importance of peer reviewed open access material. The partnership reinforces the work that both organisations are already doing, and creates useful new synergies.

Research4Life is the collective name for the four programmes – HINARI, AGORA, OARE and ARDI – that provides low- and middle-income countries with free or low cost access to academic and professional peer-reviewed content online. For some time now the content team at Reasearch4Life, coordinated by Kimberly Parker of the World Health Organization, has seen an increasing amount of requests from open access publishers, particularly in the developing world, wanting to have their content included in the Research4Life programme portals which reach 8000 institutions spread over 100 low- and middle-income countries. The Research4Life team performs some basic checks on what content is included into its database and they are already sifting these applications to establish legitimate journals –  work which has synergy with what DOAJ is doing in this area. Kimberly said: “We were already using DOAJ listings as a touchstone in assessing conformance with publishing standards; however, we hadn’t formalized the approach nor included in our replies to any publishers we turned away that they should review the DOAJ application requirements and work to fulfil them.”

The DOAJ Team is expert in assessing and identifying quality, genuine open access journals and has been reviewing applications from publishers for over 11 years, developing extensive criteria aimed at promoting best practice and transparency in academic publishing. Those criteria form the basis of the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, a joint statement first published in 2013 and now widely used as a benchmark for quality, peer reviewed publishing.

The partnership between Research4Life and DOAJ will be an exchange of information and services.

  • From 1st December 2015, Research4Life will only include open access journals that are indexed in DOAJ. Journals requesting to be included in the Research4Life programmes must be indexed in DOAJ first.  Over the coming year, the legacy open access journals in the Research4Life database will also be reviewed to confirm they are indexed by DOAJ.
  • Research4Life and DOAJ will collaborate on communicating with publishers not indexed in DOAJ referring them to the DOAJ application form.
  • Research4Life will include the DOAJ Best Practice statement in its Authorship Skills training module aimed at authors from the developing world.

Lars Bjørnshauge, Managing Director of DOAJ, said: “I am happy that DOAJ can partner with Research4Life in dealing with the problem of questionable publishers. We know that researchers from developing countries, under the pressure of the ‘publish or perish’ syndrome, are strongly encouraged to publish in “international journals” but this tradition, along with the selection bias of publishers based in Western Europe and North America, make it difficult for researchers from the developing world to be published in journals published in/out of Western Europe and North America. This has opened up a market for questionable and unethical publishers. Despite that the content provided by our two organizations is, to a large extent, based on different access and business models, I find it of utmost importance that all involved do everything possible to prevent researchers being caught and exploited by publishers, who are basically only providing invoices to the author, but no quality control and dissemination services”.

‘Indexed in DOAJ’ versus ‘the DOAJ Seal’

I need to clarify what being indexed in DOAJ means and how the Seal is related to that, and how the reapplication process works.

There is a common misunderstanding that only journals that get the Seal are “indexed in DOAJ”, that only Seal journals are quality, peer reviewed open access journals. This is incorrect. ALL journals in DOAJ have been approved as quality, peer reviewed open access journals. The whole DOAJ list is the approved, community-curated list of reputable journals!

  1. What ‘Indexed in DOAJ’ means
    Being indexed in DOAJ means that a journal has passed up to 4 stages of independent and objective, manual review. It means that the journal has been investigated by our Editorial team who have researched whether or not the journal/publisher does what they claim to do on the journal site and in their (re)application to us. During the investigation, the DOAJ editors go through the pages on a journal’s site to make sure that all the information presented to a user is easy to find, clearly and accurately presented and easy to understand. The editorial board is investigated, 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 of 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 good open access journal, a trusted open access journal.
  2. The reapplication process
    DOAJ upgraded its requirements for journals to get into DOAJ. The upgrade, which covered all new applications, was made live in March 2014. This meant that there were about 9000 journals already in DOAJ—accepted into DOAJ between 2003 and 2013—that had been accepted under less stringent requirements. We require that every one of them upgrades their information with us. To make it easier for users to see which journals have been accepted under the new criteria we added a green tick next to them. Journals without a tick next to them still have to be reviewed against the new criteria. Note however that even journals that have no tick against them have been manually reviewed and accepted into DOAJ as being reputable.If a journal is in DOAJ, it is on the list of approved and reputable journals.
  3. The DOAJ Seal
    The DOAJ Seal, think of it like this: journals that have the Seal are journals that adhere to outstanding best practice; journals that don’t have the Seal are good, trusted journals adhering to best practice. The Seal has been allocated to a handful of journals accepted into DOAJ since 2014. Journals that are awarded the Seal have answered ‘Yes’ to 7 questions that DOAJ has chosen specifically as indicators of an extra high and clear commitment to open access best practices, of extra high levels of commitment to publishing technologies, and the most ‘open’ form of open access. Importantly, the journals that DO NOT have the Seal still adhere to high levels of quality required for indexing in the DOAJ, especially those journals that have a green tick. No Seal DOES NOT mean low quality, non peer reviewed, questionable, ‘dodgy’, ‘scammy’.

I hope that this helps. DOAJ spends all of its time improving information on reliability, trustworthiness and accuracy. DOAJ also spends a lot of time ensuring that questionable journals do NOT get into the directory. DOAJ is already doing that work for you so that you can be exactly sure what levels of service you can expect when you choose a journal to submit to, to recommend to faculty, to read research in.

As ever, if you have any questions, leave a comment or get in touch!