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Few thoughts about DOAJ and its new application process

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The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a website started in 2002 which lists more than 9 000 Open Access journals. DOAJ aims to index only high quality publications that are fully Open Access, which means the whole content is free to read, share and use. Due to its relatively long history it is a well-known database, thus being listed in DOAJ significantly increase a journal’s visibility. On the other hand, the adequacy of DOAJ standards was questioned when John Bohannon claimed that 64 journals listed in this database accepted his bogus article on cancer biology.

Following this affair DOAJ suspended the application process for new entrants and started work on new inclusion criteria. Since a couple of weeks ago, the new application form is on-line and any fully Open Access journal can try to join the directory. The form has 50 positions, so it is quite extensive. The shift towards a more strict verification is therefore evident.

What is the most important thing for an Open Access journal according to the authors of the form? The necessary condition for each journal is to publish at least 5 articles a year and to keep all the content open. It seems to me that the crucial point is also having a website that contains comprehensive information about each aspect of the journal’s functioning. The best practice is to publish on-line all contact information (containing office location), editorial information, editorial board membership, guides for authors as far as information on Article Processing Charges, conditions of waiving them and notes about all additional costs for authors (if any). The more transparent your journal is, the bigger the chance it gets.

The technologies used for journal publication (platform, available file formats of full text articles, metadata management and so on) are also investigated. If you want to get your journal listed in DOAJ the best idea is to use one of the well-known, established publishing platforms. Licensing is also examined so it is very likely that the best practice is to use one of Creative Commons licenses, which are widely known from guarantying sufficient openness.

The form usually limits the number of possible answers, so it is problematic when your journal charges differently for various types of articles or when APC depend on article length. Also when you offer two types of peer-review there is no possibility to emphasize that in the application process. A big disadvantage is the lack of e-mail confirmation, which should be sent after receiving a submission by DOAJ.

DOAJ may additionally award your journal with the DOAJ Seal, which is a mark of editorial quality. As the DOAJ website stresses ”The qualifiers for the Seal will highlight features related to the openness, indexability and discoverability of the journal and, as such, have nothing to do with the scientific quality of the papers published in the journal.”

Generally speaking, the goal of this form will probably be achieved and it will be much harder to enter the database, especially for so called “predatory” publishers who are very often not able to provide sufficient information on themselves. Also smaller companies, which do not use well-developed publishing platforms, may have some problems with application.

Journal publishers and editors will try to do their best to follow DOAJ inclusion guides, to be more visible on the market. Although, if you are a specialist in your field, you should not rely only on their good will. You should be able to judge every journal based on its content. Do not rely on any “quality marks” and measures. To rate a journal just read it. Remember, do not submit your work to journals that publish low quality science or pseudoscience. It will not help you in your career. It will only help a few cheaters in earning money.

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  1. DOAJ still indexes Hikari and Dove Medical Press, who had their membership in OASPA terminated after Bohannon’s sting. Both companies publish journals that accepted the bogus article. Following this situation, OASPA claimed that in their case “the issues (like lack of quality control) may extend wider than the single affected journal”. Moreover, Hikari is listed on Jeffrey’s Beall list of “predatory publishers”. Dove Medical Press was listed there too, but later on was removed. Now, DMP is not only indexed by DOAJ but it is also a sponsor of this website. For me there is a lack of logic in the actions of DOAJ. If they heighten the inclusion bar to avoid promoting questionable publishers, why they are advertising Hikari and Dove Medical Press (in the second case not only by listing its journals but also by displaying its logo in a prominent place on their website)?

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