DOAJ is raising the quality bar for open access: SPARC blog post

DOAJ’s managing director, Lars Bjørnshauge, has been interviewed by SPARC about DOAJ’s enhanced application form and raising the quality bar in open access publishing. The post, published today, highlights how effectively the new form is providing a much-needed filter against questionable, unethical and non-transparent publishing practices.  Combined with OASPA’s efforts, the form is an important tool for fighting  “the scholarly community’s legitimate concerns over the quality of Open Access journals” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “The actions that the DOAJ are taking… provide an important new safeguard, and helps raise the quality bar.”

Of course, we are delighted to hear that our efforts over the past two years are bearing fruit. With financial support from the community, via sponsorships and donations, we have worked hard to implement the new form and its comprehensive administration system that our volunteers use to review the applications. We are also helping publishers improve their practices, helping them understand how their operations can be more “professional, ethical, and transparent”.

DOAJ will not be resting on its laurels quite yet though as there is still much left to do. DOAJ is currently inviting 99% of all the journals indexed in it to reapply. It is anticipated that this process take the rest of this year to complete, progress of course depending on how fast publishers return their reapplications to us. The review work requires a large amount of manpower so we are seeking further financial contributions to help us speed up the process and more volunteers who know Turkish, Indonesian, Farsi, Spanish and Portuguese.

If you or your institutions would like to donate, you can do so here: http://doaj.org/supportDoaj. If you know anyone who might like to volunteer a few hours of their time reviewing applications with us, please show them this post.

Onwards!

Applications: a note about Archiving and Preservation

One of the questions in our Application Form asks: ‘What digital archiving policy does the journal use?’ (Question 25). The words “archive” and “archiving” are used frequently in academic publishing and more often than not refer to very different things so I want to add some clarity to what DOAJ is referring to with this question.

It is a sad truth that some online only, open access journals have disappeared offline without any trace, taking published articles with them. When those articles have no permanent article identifiers, nor have they been archived with an archival organisation, then they are potentially lost forever.

Long term deep archiving and digital preservation

Archiving and preservation plays an important role for all journals, particularly if those archives are ‘dark’ archives that have an intention of preserving materials for a very long time. They may have the ability to start serving content when the normal content source stops working. They may apply formal methods of preserving content to ensure minimal or no digital deterioration.

The 3 deep archiving schemes that we list in Question 25—LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, and Portico—are all recognised archiving agencies and are listed as such at The Keepers Registry (KR). More on the KR in a future post. LOCKSS (or Global LOCKSS Network) is essentially like a digital bookshelf where libraries have perpetual access to content to which they are entitled. CLOCKSS is a not-for-profit, dark archive, that preserves digital scholarly materials for the very long term, through a global and geopolitically distributed network of archive nodes. Portico is a company offering comprehensive archiving and preservation techniques.

We also recognise ‘PMC/Europe PMC/PMC Canada’ (PubMed Central) as a valid archiving option. They have a remit to preserve copies of research content that has been funded by public money. Unlike the previous 3 options, they convert the content they receive into their own format, archive copies and distribute copies to their own local repositories.

The final option in Question 25 is ‘a national library’ and we add this option because many (although not all) national libraries have a mandate to receive, via legal deposit, and preserve a copy of anything published in their countries. Although it doesn’t cover all countries, Wikipedia has a good list of such libraries.

What is not a deep archive

So let me quickly cover also what doesn’t count as a valid archiving option:

  • an online hosting platform (e.g. OJS)
  • a 3rd party aggregator (e.g. EBSCO) that you have licensed to reuse or distribute your content
  • a journal’s back issues or older articles made available on its own site (often, confusingly, referred to as the journal’s archives)
  • an institutional repository which often has author preprints and not the final article.

Hopefully this post has add some clarity to our archiving question but, as always, get in touch if you have any questions.

 

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.