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DOAJ in Transition — Interview with Lars Bjørnshauge, Managing Editor

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is undergoing a major transition. Earlier this year they spun off from Lund University to make their own way in the world. DOAJ now lists almost 10,000 journals, about half of which are searchable at the article metadata level, with over one million articles available.

They have added many new features and are working on more so I asked Lars Bjørnshauge to talk about where DOAJ is going. Lars was Director of Libraries at Lund University from 2001 to 2011 and founded the DOAJ in 2003. He became Managing Editor of the new DOAJ in January 2013.

Note in particular that DOAJ has just published draft new criteria for journal selection. They are now taking public comments on these new criteria. Their selection criteria have been a matter of discussion for some time. See for example the discussion under my earlier Scholarly Kitchen article on the new wave of gold OA journals.

Q: Why did DOAJ leave the Lund library?

A: DOAJ was founded by Lund University Libraries on May 2003. During the years since then DOAJ has grown significantly in terms of the number of journals listed and as well in terms of its importance for all stakeholders involved, including OA publishers, universities, libraries, researchers and users. The resources required to continuously develop, operate and manage the service have taken a volume that makes it difficult for a single university library to commit the adequate resources and attention to a service which does not belong to the core obligations of a university library. Over the last 3 years or so it became difficult to focus sufficiently on the service, while its importance for the developing open access community was ever increasing.

During 2011 a discussion between OASPA and Lund University was initiated with the purpose of finding a model for securing the long term sustainability for DOAJ.

Late 2012 an agreement was made between Lund University and Infrastructure Services for Open Access C.I.C (IS4OA) facilitating the takeover.

Our mission with the DOAJ is to curate, maintain and continue to develop DOAJ as the authoritative source with reliable information about open access scholarly journals on the web and verify that entries on the list comply with reasonable standards.

We will contribute to increasing the visibility, dissemination, discoverability and attraction of open access journals and to enable scholars, libraries, universities, research funders and other stakeholders to benefit from the information and services provided and as well facilitate the integration of open access journals into library and aggregator services.

Furthermore it is our ambition to assist, where possible, publishers and their journals to meet reasonable digital publishing standards.

We have setup an Advisory Board, comprised of open access publishers and experts from the academic library community to help us take the right directions for the DOAJ.

Q: As someone who uses DOAJ for research on OA I am happy to see the new analytical capabilities. The spreadsheet of OA journals by country is especially interesting, for example with Brazil in second place and Iran ahead of France. Do you think that DOAJ is sufficiently comprehensive to make these analyses meaningful? Are you considering any additional capabilities?

A: The journals per country do only give a number of journals listed in the DOAJ. We do not know how comprehensive the DOAJ actually is. In addition to the current search and browse functionality (subject, country, license type, and publication charges) we expect with the implementation of new selection criteria to be able to offer yet another range of browse functionality – for instance browse by peer-review model, digital archiving (or not), degree of openness etc.

Q: How are journals added to DOAJ? Do you look for them or do they come to you?

A: The community suggests journals for inclusion by means of the submission form. 100-200 submissions are received each month. Based on that, a more detailed form is sent to the publisher for completion. Often this gives rise to a lot of communication back and forth between the DOAJ team and the publisher.

Q: Your inclusion criteria include simple editorial control rather than requiring peer review. Some purists object to this. Why do you use the broader criteria?

A: Since DOAJ is global in scope, both in terms of geography and scholarly disciplines there is no single universal model for reviewing papers that covers all traditions and scholarly disciplines. For instance, within arts and humanities editorial control is an accepted model for quality control.

In the new tighter criteria we soon will launch, publishers are mandated to indicate which editorial quality control model the journal applies.

Q: Your website offers a lot of guidance for what should be presented on the websites of OA publishers. Why is that?

A: One of the missions of the DOAJ is to encourage best practices and to increase the quality (both in terms of the content and the technical functionality of the journals). As mentioned earlier we have been working on new selection criteria for journals to be listed in DOAJ.

With the growth in the number of research funders, institutional open access policies and mandates, all stakeholders involved – researchers (as authors and readers), research managers, staff managing publication funds, librarians, universities and research funders – need a trusted and reliable information resource that identifies good quality open access journals and filters out disreputable publishers. Equally, the former have a vested interest in not being associated with the latter.

We have tried to construct objective criteria that can facilitate compliance verification easily.

The new selection criteria address 3 main areas:

1. General information about the journal, including business model, provision of object identifiers, archiving arrangements etc.

2. The quality of the editorial filtering process for accepted papers. Since it is out of scope to assess the quality of each individual article, a number of criteria will be introduced as proxy measures for the perceived quality of the journal.

3. The degree of openness of the journal/article. Over the years, various flavors or grades of openness have emerged. It has become increasingly important for all stakeholders to retrieve information about reader rights, re-use rights and author rights related to each journal/article. The new criteria will address this issue as well.

We are confident that this move will contribute to the transparency and attractiveness of open access publishing and further marginalize shabby publishers.

Q: What do you see as the most important developments in OA publishing today?

A: The most important developments in and around OA-publishing today are:

The strengthening and proliferation of OA-mandates by universities, research funders and governments.

The challenges in creating an infrastructure for open access publishing working next to or integrated with the infrastructure for subscription based publishing that has emerged over decades if not centuries.

The challenges in relation to taking the historic unique opportunity to this time create a true competitive market for publishing scientific results.

About David Wojick

I do strategic consulting where science, technology and policy meet. My strategic insights grow from original research on complex issues and technological revolutions. I also do applied research on scientific communication.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “DOAJ in Transition — Interview with Lars Bjørnshauge, Managing Editor

  1. What is the new source of funding for the DOAJ? This excellent report indicates that the Directory is now affiliated/hosted by/supported by “IS4OA” but that website doesn’t seem to indicate who provides their financial backing. Does funding come from the OA industry, charitable contributions,
    foundations, library contributions, or “yet to be determined”?

    Posted by Bill Cohen | Jun 20, 2013, 10:01 am
  2. Correction: Lars Bjørnshauge’s title is Managing Director not Managing Editor. (I have been spending too much time talking to editors.)

    Posted by David Wojick | Jun 20, 2013, 12:30 pm
  3. DOAJ has run up against one of the truths of the Web: It is far easier to start a public service than to continue it. The enthusiasm of the original backers often cannot be sustained in the long run. The clock is ticking, and I wonder how many similar “open” services face the same challenge.

    Posted by Ken Lanfear | Jun 21, 2013, 7:47 am
    • I see no evidence of this Ken. DOAJ spun off because of growth.

      Posted by David Wojick | Jun 21, 2013, 9:17 am

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