Update on our reapplication process

I just read a great post in the Digital Commons’ DC Telegraph which has prompted me to write a little update of where we are with the reapplication process that we have been speaking about—that is, the process where all existing journals in DOAJ have to reapply to stay indexed.

As happens with some development projects, the launch of the functionality that will handle all the reapplications had to be moved out from our original estimated date. We’re sorry for the delay. The good news is that we are in testing now and, if all goes to plan, should be ready to release the functionality in December. If testing throws up some serious flaws in our developments then we may have to wait until January 2015. Either way, we are almost there.

As mentioned in the DC Telegraph, and in Nina Rose’s post on L.J. eds., we will be emailing all publishers as soon as we are ready so if you haven’t heard from us yet, that’s OK. We will also be publishing an announcement here, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn AND every publisher that logs into their account will see a blue ‘sticky note’ across the top of their account letting them know that they have reapplications to make.

Sample sticky note

The sticky note appears in your Publishers’ Area once you have logged in.

As always, get in touch if you have questions.

 

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.

 

DOAJ Editor and Associate Editor network goes live

Our new network to support our crowdsourcing project has gone live which means that our volunteers of Editors and Associate Editors can now start work! This is an exciting and extremely important step for DOAJ.

Although there are no visible changes to the site itself, behind the scenes we have implemented a whole new piece of functionality to support a large number of people all working on the journals and new applications. Certainly, publishers will start to see the benefits as turnaround times from submission of application to decision decrease. Remember: as well as the ~100 new applications we receive every month, almost 99% of all the journals in DOAJ need to reapply to ensure they meet the new criteria!

We will start with three pilot teams: Chinese, English and Spanish. To help them find their way around the new system, we will create a series of training videos and some written documentation. Links to those documents will be emailed to each volunteer.

As ever, if you have any question or would like to know more, drop me a line.

Crowdsourcing librarian power

DOAJ recently attended, and gave a plenary session at, the 35th conference for the International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries. The presentation gave conference delegates an update on progress with the new application form and details of the our network of volunteers: the DOAJ Associate Editors and Editors. I’d like to share a little more of that information with you.

Today ~99% of all the journals currently indexed in DOAJ will have to reapply to remain in the directory. This is necessary because the bar for inclusion has been considerably raised in response to the fast-paced development of open access over the last 11 years. The application form has been extended from 6 to 56 questions, with the the form focussing on 3 main areas:

  1. Quality
  2. Technical quality (publishing practices)
  3. Openness

Reassessing 9770 journals on 50 new points of information is a huge amount of work that needs to be done methodically, effectively and routinely. Crowdsourcing this work is an ideal solution.

We put out a call for volunteers in January 2014. We had an overwhelming response with volunteers offering their help and expertise from all over the world. (Applications are closed for now.) The majority of the volunteers come from the academic library community which is very useful for DOAJ since we want to have groups of volunteers based around language and specialty. We will organise our volunteers into a network of  1 editor looking after a group of associate editors, with each group reporting to the existing DOAJ Managing Editors.

This way of working is completely new to DOAJ and so we will start with a pilot scheme to ensure we do this right and correctly. We have set up 3 pilot groups: Chinese, Spanish and English. We will start the pilot later this month. Our technical partner, Cottage Labs, has built a journal review and approval structure to support the editors in their work.

If you applied to be a DOAJ Associate Editor and have not heard from us please be patient while run the pilot. And of course, thank you for volunteering!