Thursday, August 21, 2008

An interview with DOAJ

The Directory of Open Access Journals is a wonderful research tool for users wishing to quickly search many open access journal articles. I recently had the opportunity to put some questions to the DOAJ team. (In the picture from left to right: Sonja Brage, Anna-Lena Johansson, Ingela Wahlgren and Salam Baker Shanawa.)

Tom: When and why was DOAJ established?

DOAJ: It was initiated during the first Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication in Lund/Copenhagen October 2002 and the project started in January 2003 and was launched in May.

It was established because different collections of freely available journals and pre- and e-print archives and collections of learning objects were difficult to overview and integrate in library and information services, so it would be a valuable service for the global research and education community to collect and organize all open access journals in a way that allow libraries worldwide to integrate the resources in existing services/catalogues. DOAJ was intended to make search results more visible and reach users faster.

Tom: Does it have any 'parent' organisations? If so, who are they?

DOAJ: No there is no parent organisation, but DOAJ is provided and maintained by Lund University Libraries, Head Office and sponsored by Lund University, Ebsco, National Library of Sweden and INASP. DOAJ also receives funding from members.

Tom: What are DOAJ's goals?



  • Heighten the quality of open access journals by setting standards for, for example, copyright, the BOAI definition of OA, demand informative homepages and transparent editorial boards.
  • Spreading scientific information to as many as possible for free.
  • Increasing the visibility of scientific research.
  • Promoting increased journal usage and impact.
  • Information needs to be free.
Tom: What developments can we expect to see in the future?

DOAJ: We’d like to have tools to measure impact factors. We’d also like to provide long-term preservation.

Tom: What will DOAJ be like in five years?

DOAJ: Difficult to say but bigger of course. We hope that the quality of home pages of journals will be higher, for example, not all articles in one year in one big file, which makes it impossible to have DOAJ content, which leads to a wish: that all journals should provide us with their content, so that all journals are searchable on an article level.

Tom: How many people work on DOAJ? What do they do?

DOAJ: We have 3 librarians and one technician/system developer, but we share him with the rest of the head office.

Many might think that we “only” add journals to DOAJ but far from that. We receive a lot of feedback and we are very dependent on it for things like broken links to URLs. Also we get a lot of technical questions; many not very easy to answer for a librarian.

We publish a newsletter for sponsors and members and we also evaluate journals suggested to DOAJ and contact the editors. Then often follows a long communication about our criteria, which is not always clear to all editors. We communicate in English, but it is not always the first or second language for an editor. We receive email in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese and answer in English. When everything is OK we add the journal to the directory.

Part of our time we check that the already-added journals still live up to our criteria. If not, we contact the editor and if necessary we remove the title from DOAJ.

We assist editors in formulating information correctly, and discuss how a home page needs to look. Many people wanting to start an open access journal are not always confident about how to do it, for example that an ISSN is needed. We feel we do a great job by adding quality to open access journals by demanding certain criteria to be fulfilled.

Tom: What does DOAJ offer to researchers? How is it different to other research tools like Google, Google Scholar, and Pubmed?

DOAJ: DOAJ offers a “For author” service, where you can, for example, see which journals require a publication fee and which don’t.

Google and Google Scholar are harvesters. The material you find there is not necessarily open access or quality controlled. PubMed only covers medicine. In DOAJ you find only quality controlled scientific journals which are Open access. Our goal is to cover all subjects and languages. Just now there are journal articles in 41 languages.

Tom: Why should researchers publish in a journal which appears in DOAJ?

DOAJ: Researchers will get their results disseminated in a much faster way to more people. As we said earlier on, DOAJ stands for certain quality criteria.

Tom: Tell us about the SPARC Europe Seal.

DOAJ: To receive the "Seal" the journal has to choose the CC-BY license (Creative Commons license) and provide DOAJ with metadata on article level.

It was SPARC Europe and DOAJ who entered an agreement about introducing a certification scheme for open access journals, the SPARC Europe Seal for Open Access Journals. This was announced at the Fourth NCSC conference held in Lund in April this year.

The goal is improved information as to what users are allowed to do with papers published in an OA journal, possible long-term archiving of content, which makes publishing in the journal more attractive to authors, better exposure as a high-quality journal based on state-of-the art dissemination technologies.

More on DOAJ:
My thanks to Sonja Brage at DOAJ.

[Amended 28/8: names of DOAJ staff added.]