Think. Check. Submit. Helping researchers to make informed publication choices.

Think Check Submit Logo
A new cross-industry campaign launches today – Think. Check. Submit. The campaign will provide information for researchers, through an online hub at, about the criteria they should look for when selecting where to publish their research.

The volume of research output continues to grow, and recent years have seen an increase in new publishing services and outlets. In March of this year, the CrossRef database alone included over 71 million DOIs, of which 55 million refer to journal articles from a total of over 36,000 journals. (And that is just the tip of the iceberg: thousands of journals in DOAJ use no DOI system at all.) At the same time, we read of stories of malpractice, or questionable publishing, but little in the way of guidance exists when it comes to choosing a journal to publish in.

Think. Check. Submit. is a new campaign coordinated by representatives of organisations from across the industry: ALPSP, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), INASP, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), ISSN, LIBER, OASPA, UKSG and individual publishers. The campaign will help researchers understand their options, and key criteria they can check before making an informed decision about where to submit. Lars Bjørnshauge, DOAJ’s Managing Director, said “I am very proud that DOAJ is one of the founding organisations behind this broad campaign! It ties together nicely everything that DOAJ has been doing, particularly in recent years as we have increased our efforts helping authors and publishers alike commit to a better standard of publishing practice.”

It is envisaged that researchers will benefit from more information on what to consider when choosing where to publish, but the campaign will be directed particularly towards early-career academics and is aimed to be accessible to those whose first language is not English, or who may not be aware of, or have access to, the full breadth of scholarly literature.

Two articles in BMC Medicine point to the negative impact that some journals can have. One gives an individual academic’s point of view of the volume of unsolicited email invitations to publish, many of which are “unclear as to whether the manuscripts published by these journals add value to either the journals or the submitting authors.”[1]  The other investigates the scale and distribution of deceptive open access publishing both geographically and across scientific fields.[2]

“There is a global problem with information inequality and integrity”, said OASPA’s President Paul Peters, “not all publishing bodies operate to the required standards for producing quality literature. Researchers need resources to effectively evaluate these factors. Think. Check. Submit. will help researchers to carefully assess their options in order to make an informed choice before submitting their papers”.

The number of active academic journals grows by around 3.5 per cent each year[3] – in 2014 this equated to almost 1,000 new titles. In terms of regulation, DOAJ implemented new criteria for open access titles in March 2014.  Since then it has processed 6,000 applications, of which 2,700 have been rejected, 1,800 are in process, 1,500 have been accepted. In the same period 700 journals have been removed from DOAJ.

The ISSN network, coordinated by the ISSN International Centre, identifies and provides a bibliographic description to more than 60,000 new print and online serials per year. Every journal must have a registered ISSN before they can apply to be indexed in DOAJ and yet an ISSN number in itself is not intended to certify the quality of a serial. As a step toward certifying quality, the International ISSN Centre has established partnerships with scholarly organizations to promote quality open access resources with its new Directory of Open Access Scholarly Resources – ROAD – which offers a freely accessible description of 12,000 + OA resources including journals, conference proceedings, academic repositories, monographic series and scholarly blogs.

We are delighted to announce the launch of this campaign and would welcome your questions or feedback. Please leave comments here or visit for further information.

[1] You are invited to submit – David Moher and Anubhav Srivastava
BMC Medicine 2015, DOI:10.1186/s12916-015-0423-3
Published 4 August 2015:

[2] “Predatory” Open Access – A longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics
Cenyu Shen and Bo Christer Björk
BMC Medicine 2015, DOI:
Published 01 October 2015:

[3] Taken from The STM Report: An overview of scientific and scholarly journal publishing, Fourth edition

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: If you know anyone who might like to volunteer a few hours of their time reviewing applications with us, please show them this post.


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.