Photo Credit: Maxime Lebrun on Unsplash
Photo Credit: Maxime Lebrun on Unsplash

If you publish Open Access journals, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) should be at the top of your indexing list. DOAJ indexing has long served as a mark of journal quality to scholars and their institutions, and today it’s increasingly becoming a core OA publishing standard. For example, Plan S requires journals taking a fully-OA publishing compliance route to be indexed in the DOAJ as part of its implementation guidelines. Many OA publishing organizations also use DOAJ indexing as part of their admittance criteria, including the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), which now requires all publisher members with journals to have at least one title indexed in the DOAJ.

In addition to serving as proof of publication quality, having journals indexed in the DOAJ can help expand their reach. With 15,000+ journal members, over 1.2 million visitors every month, and a continually updating stream of journal metadata that’s ingested by major discovery services, the DOAJ is a powerful platform for journal awareness.

So what are the DOAJ’s indexing criteria? And how can you apply to add one or more journals to the DOAJ? We break down everything you need to know in this blog post.

Applying to the DOAJ is free and once you’ve met all of the indexing criteria you can easily submit an application!

DOAJ indexing criteria

Since it was launched in 2003, the DOAJ has indexed over 15,000 OA journals in its community-curated database. The index is open to OA journals in all subject areas and all languages, and includes a wide variety of publications in STEM, the humanities, and the social sciences. So ALL OA journals that meet the DOAJ indexing criteria can and should apply to be added to the index.

At the highest level, to be admitted to the DOAJ, journals must be fully-OA publications. The DOAJ defines fully-OA journals as those that make all of their articles freely and immediately accessible online (no embargo period) under a Creative Commons or equivalent open copyright license that allows anyone to “read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose.” Journals may not require readers to register to view their content.

Journals must also consistently publish at least five scholarly articles per year targeted at researchers or practitioners within their field. You can find more details on how the DOAJ defines scholarly articles, including specific criteria for clinical case reports and conference papers, here. Additionally, journals must have a unique URL for each of the articles they publish, and articles must be available in individual PDF or HTML full-text files.

Journals are encouraged to follow the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing,” which the DOAJ co-created in partnership with The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), OASPA, and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

The DOAJ aims to be the go-to place for scholars to search for quality, peer-reviewed OA content and, as such, it has some pretty specific inclusion criteria. In good news, the DOAJ’s indexing criteria are all straightforward and relatively easy to meet.

In this section, we overview the DOAJ’s indexing criteria in the order in which they appear on the application form and what you need to know to fulfill them.

1. Confirmation of OA publishing and OA statement

The first step in the DOAJ application process is for journals to confirm that they adhere to the DOAJ’s definition of OA. The DOAJ requires all journals to provide a URL to a page on their website where they list an OA statement. This can usually be housed on the journal’s author information page or a journal policies page.

The DOAJ provides the following example OA statement in its application form:

“This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.”

2. Required basic journal information

The next part of the DOAJ application is some required basic journal information. This section includes foundational publication questions that every journal should be able to answer. Required basic journal information includes:

  • Journal Title: Spell out the complete journal title to match the title registered with all official publication identifiers (e.g., ISSN)
  • Journal website URL: You must have a journal website to be included in the DOAJ, so if you’re starting a journal, you’ll need to have that set up first (you’ll also need to publish at least five research articles before applying as noted above)
  • Journal ISSN (print version): This is only required if you have a print ISSN otherwise, leave it blank
  • Journal ISSN (online version): The DOAJ notes this cannot be the same as the P-ISSN
  • Up to 6 keywords that describe the subject matter of the journal (these must be in English)
  • The languages in which the journal accepts manuscripts
  • Publisher: This is the organization that officially publishes the journal, whether it’s a press, learned society, or academic non-profit
  • The country where the journal’s publisher is based (i.e., carries out the majority of its publishing activities)
  • The name of any society or institution associated with the journal that is not the publisher and that society or institution’s country

It’s important to note that every journal applying to the DOAJ must have its own website, whether it’s a dedicated journal domain or a subdomain.

The DOAJ application also includes the following copyright license information requirements:

  • Journals must indicate all DOAJ-approved copyright license options that they permit (e.g., CC BY, CC0)
  • URL where the journal’s license terms are stated (as noted above, journals must include a clear copyright policy/statement on their website)
  • Whether the journal embeds and/or displays licensing information in its articles — “yes” or “no” (this is not required but is strongly recommended)
  • Whether the journal allows author(s) to hold copyright without restrictions — “yes” or “no” (if “yes,” you’ll need to link to page on the journal website where that is clearly stated)

Quick Note: For journals that use Scholastica’s OA publishing platform, we explain how you can easily set a default Creative Commons copyright license for all of the articles that you publish here. Once you set this up you can select “yes” for the DOAJ application question “Does the journal embed and/or display licensing information in its articles?” because Scholastica will automatically add copyright information to your article pages and article-level metadata.

4. Editorial policies and processes

Next, the DOAJ requires journals to display that they have robust editorial policies in place. To be admitted to the DOAJ, journals must have an active editorial board (with at least two members) and a process for reviewing all articles before publication. Journals in STEM must have a peer-review process that involves external referees, while journals in the humanities can either have a peer review process or editorial review workflow. All editorial process information must be publicly available on the journal website.

The DOAJ application includes the following required editorial policy information:

  • The type(s) of review the journal uses (e.g., single-blind, double-blind, editorial review)
  • A link to the journal’s editorial/peer review policies page (we overview what journals should include in their peer review policies in this blog post)
  • Whether the journal has a policy for screening for plagiarism — “yes” or “no” (if “yes,” you’ll need to provide a URL where that information can be found)
  • URL for the journal’s aims and scope
  • URL to the Editorial Board page (this should include the names and professional affiliations of all editors)
  • URL for the journal’s instructions for authors page (you can find some key author instruction dos and don’ts here)
  • The average number of weeks between article submission and publication

Of the above items, all but the plagiarism policy are required, and having a plagiarism policy is strongly recommended by the DOAJ. With regard to the editorial board, all journals must have an editor-in-chief and estabished editors.

5. Business model details

The DOAJ closely reviews all journals to ensure they have publicly stated business models that adhere to the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.” The following business model information is required in the DOAJ application:

  • Whether the journal has article processing charges (APCs) — “yes” or “no” response
  • URL to the page where article fee information can be found (this is required, so even if the journal charges no fees that must be explicitly stated somewhere on the journal website)
  • Whether the journal has a waiver policy — “yes” or “no” (if “yes” you’ll need to provide a URL where waiver policy information can be found)
  • Whether the journal has any other publication fees — you’ll need to select “yes” or “no” and, if “yes,” you’ll need to link to a page on your website where you transparently state all fees (e.g., editorial processing charges, language editing fees, submission fees, etc.)

Encouraged but not required publishing best practices

Finally, the DOAJ application includes a “best practices” section where journals can input details on additional publication ethics, article discoverability, and preservation standards they follow. These best practices are not required for DOAJ indexing, but they are strongly encouraged. The DOAJ “best practices” include:

  • Archiving articles in long-term preservation services (applicants are prompted to select any archives or repositories that journal articles are added to, such as Portico)
  • Journals that deposit articles into a digital archive or repository will be prompted to link to a page on their website with preservation and archiving information
  • Whether the journal has a policy allowing authors to deposit versions of their work into a repository of their choice (e.g., Sherpa/Romeo)
  • Journals with author self-archiving policies will be prompted to provide a link to their policy in a directory or on the publisher’s site
  • Persistent article identifiers used by the journal (e.g., DOIs)
  • Whether the journal allows for ORCIDs to be present in article metadata
  • Whether the journal complies with I4OC standards for open citations

All of the above DOAJ best practices are not required for general DOAJ indexing, but they are necessary for journals that wish to be eligible for the DOAJ Seal. That indicator of superior journal quality is awarded to around 10% of journals indexed in DOAJ. You can find complete details on the DOAJ Seal requirements here.

How to apply to the DOAJ and what to expect

Once you know that your journal(s) meet all of the core DOAJ indexing criteria, you’re ready to apply. In this section, we overview the application and review process.

Overall, the DOAJ application process is fast and easy — so don’t sweat it! Just make sure all of the information you enter is accurate and that you don’t skip any of the required questions! Applications with incorrect or incomplete information will be automatically rejected.

A couple of reminders: As noted above, remember that each journal must have its own website, whether it’s a dedicated journal domain or a subdomain. And all of the journal’s informational pages (e.g., aims and scope, editorial board) must be hosted on that website (not a separate publisher website) so submitting authors can quickly find it. Additionally, each article your journal publishes should have its own URL (not just an issue URL), so the DOAJ and third-party databases can directly link to each journal article.

You’ll notice that for a few of the application criteria listed above the DOAJ requires journals to not only provide a “yes” or “no” answer but to also link to where information on the topic can be found on the journal website. For example, journals must be able to link to a page on their website that overviews publication fee information (APCs/submission fees). In instances where a URL is required for both “yes” and “no” responses, like for the questions about journal fees, the journal website should include transparent language on the subject, even if that is to say that it is not applicable for the journal (e.g., “this journal does not charge any author-facing fees”). This is part of the DOAJ’s commitment to publication transparency.

It’s important to note that you will have to submit a separate application for each of the OA journals you publish to prove that each journal meets the DOAJ criteria. So getting one journal indexed in the DOAJ doesn’t mean that any other journal you publish will automatically be admitted.

That said, once your journal(s) are admitted into the DOAJ, you will have the option to set up automatic content deposits. You can either do this on your own via the DOAJ API or via a ready-to-go journal integration from a software provider — like Scholastica’s DOAJ integration, which automates all DOAJ article deposits for you. So the legwork for DOAJ indexing is all upfront unless you opt to manually upload articles (we don’t recommend this for time and metadata quality reasons).

You can access the DOAJ Journal Application form here.

DOAJ indexing vs publisher support

You may notice that the DOAJ website includes three “support” categories: sponsors, publisher supporters, and supporters. It’s important to note that becoming a Publisher supporter and applying to have a journal indexed in the DOAJ are two separate things. Becoming a DOAJ supporter is a way to help financially contribute to the ongoing maintenance and development of the DOAJ. It is not a requirement for DOAJ indexing and it does not guarantee DOAJ indexing for journals published by supporters. All DOAJ journal applications are treated equally regardless of whether they are published by a supporter.

The DOAJ application review process: What to expect

Upon submitting your DOAJ application, you’ll be taken to a confirmation screen, and you will also receive a confirmation email (save this for reference!). Your application will then be assessed by the DOAJ team. DOAJ hand reviews each application for accuracy, which can take some time — so be patient. While you’re waiting for a decision, be sure to check ALL of your email folders, including spam. The DOAJ requires replies to any email it sends in a month or less, and you don’t want to be rejected because you forgot to check an email folder!

If your journal is accepted into the DOAJ, you’ll receive a confirmation email with next steps. If your application is rejected for some reason, don’t worry, you can always reapply! The DOAJ will send you details on why your application was rejected and you’ll usually be allowed to reapply within six months.

General indexing advice for the DOAJ and beyond

Overall, for the DOAJ, and any index you apply to have a journal included in, you must be sure to clearly and accurately state all required information within the application and on your journal’s website. Indexing criteria is meant to ensure journal quality, and this should be something that both the index you’re applying to and any author visiting your journal can easily verify from your journal website.

To learn more about how Scholastica is helping journals fulfill the Plan S implementation guidelines and core standards like DOAJ indexing, visit our Product Roadmap: Plan S, Core Open Access Publishing Standards & Scholastica.

Update note: This blog post was originally published on the 19th of June 2019 and updated and republished on the 28th of December 2020 to reflect the latest DOAJ indexing guidelines.

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