Photo Credit: Natalia Y. on Unsplash
Photo Credit: Natalia Y. on Unsplash

Gaining admittance into the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary!) has long been a way for OA journals to demonstrate high publication quality to submitting authors and expand their readership. So, there’s no question that the DOAJ should be at the top of any OA journal team’s indexing application list. But you may be wondering where to begin.

What are the DOAJ’s admittance criteria? And how can you apply to add one or more journals to the index? We break down everything you need to know in this blog post. To jump to a specific section, use the links below!

Why apply to add journals to the DOAJ?

First, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of applying to the DOAJ and what sets it apart from other scholarly indexes and search engines.

In addition to providing proof of publication quality, having journals indexed in the DOAJ can significantly help expand their reach. With 19,000+ journal members, over 1.2 million monthly visitors, and a continually updating stream of freely available journal metadata, which many scholarly search engines and discovery services ingest, the DOAJ is a powerful platform for journal awareness. In fact, as stated on their indexing benefits page, “levels of traffic to a journal website typically increase threefold after inclusion in DOAJ.”

DOAJ indexing is also increasingly becoming a core OA publishing standard. For example, Plan S requires journals taking its fully-OA publishing compliance route to attain DOAJ indexing. 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 publisher members with journals to have at least one title indexed in the DOAJ.

So, there are many good reasons to apply to this index! If you’re jumpstarting indexing for a new OA journal, we highly recommend starting with the DOAJ.

Types of journals that can apply to the DOAJ

Before we get into the nitty-gritty DOAJ indexing process, let’s overview the high-level admittance requirements publishers and editors need to know to determine if a journal is eligible to apply. If you’re already familiar with these criteria, feel free to skip ahead.

At the highest level, to be eligible for DOAJ indexing, journals must be fully OA publications and adhere to the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing,” which the DOAJ co-created in partnership with COPE, OASPA, and WAME. The DOAJ application incorporates most of the Principles, so if your journal meets the criteria outlined below, you’re well on your way to compliance. However, you should still review the Principles in detail to ensure you’re not missing anything!

The DOAJ defines fully OA journals as:

“Journals where the copyright holder of a scholarly work grants usage rights to others using an open license (Creative Commons or equivalent). This allows for immediate free access to the work and permits any user 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.”

The DOAJ does permit journals to charge for print issues. However, journals cannot charge for or require readers to register to view any of their online content, and the DOAJ does not allow embargoes.

Additionally, journals must have a 1+ year history of fully OA publishing or have published at least 10 OA research articles. They must also consistently publish at least five scholarly articles per year targeted at researchers or practitioners. You can find more details on how the DOAJ defines scholarly articles here, including specific criteria for clinical case reports and conference proceedings.

The DOAJ welcomes applications from eligible OA journals in all subject areas (STEM, the humanities, and social sciences) and all languages. So, ALL OA journals that meet the DOAJ indexing criteria can and should apply.

In the next section, we overview the DOAJ’s indexing criteria in the order in which they appear on the application form and how to fulfill them.

1. Confirmation of OA publishing and OA policy statement

The first step in the DOAJ application process is for journals to confirm that they adhere to the DOAJ’s definition of fully-OA publishing above. Journals must also provide a URL to a page on their website with a formal OA statement, usually housed on the journal’s author information page or a dedicated 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 includes foundational publication questions that every journal must be able to answer to be admitted. The DOAJ requires the following basic journal information:

  • Journal Title: This must match the title registered with all official publication identifiers (e.g., ISSN)
  • Journal website URL: You must have a journal website (dedicated journal subdomains are acceptable — i.e., if your journal has a subdomain page hosted on a publisher’s website)
  • Journal ISSN (print version): This is only required if you have a print ISSN otherwise, leave it blank
  • Journal ISSN (online version): You must list a valid ISSN on your journal website, whether a print or designated online ISSN
  • Up to 6 keywords: These should describe the subject matter of the journal, and they must be in English
  • The languages in which the journal accepts manuscripts: You may choose as many languages as applicable
  • Publisher Name: This is the organization that officially publishes the journal, whether it’s a press, learned society, or academic non-profit
  • Publisher’s country: This is the country where the journal’s publisher is based (i.e., carries out the majority of its publishing activities)
  • Affiliated/sponsoring society or institution (only if applicable): The name of any society/institution associated with the journal that is not the official publisher (e.g., if a university press publishes the journal on behalf of a society)

Additionally, journals must adhere to the following requirements listed in the DOAJ Guide to Applying, which are not explicitly stated in the application form (so be sure to read the guide!):

  • Each article must be available as an individual, full-text HTML or PDF file with one unique URL per article
  • The journal must not have “intrusive advertising” (per the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing recommendations)
  • If the journal charges for withdrawing an article after submission, that charge cannot exceed any other author fee amount
  • Journals may not display “Impact Factors or ranking metrics” from services other than Clarivate and Scopus on their website

Journals must have copyright licensing to be eligible for DOAJ indexing. The application includes the following copyright license information requirements:

  • License(s) the journal permits: The DOAJ recommends Creative Commons licenses but allows publishers to use a proprietary license, as long as it applies similar terms and conditions and adheres to the other requirements in the bullets below
  • URL where the journal’s license terms are stated: Journals must include a copyright policy/statement for published content on their website that is clearly separate from the website copyright terms
  • Whether the journal embeds and/or displays licensing information in its articles: Applicants should answer “yes” only if licensing is embedded or displayed in all versions of each article (the DOAJ does not require this but strongly recommends it)
  • Whether the journal allows the author(s) to hold copyright without restrictions: Applicants should answer “yes” only if authors publishing under any license the journal permits get to retain all rights
  • Link to the journal’s copyright terms: Applicants should again input a link to their copyright policy/statement for published content (the best practice is to include all licensing options and terms on one page)

Quick Scholastica users 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 the articles 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 your chosen copyright license to published article pages and article-level metadata.

4. Editorial policies and processes

Next, the DOAJ requires journals to display robust editorial policies and states, “all articles must pass through a quality control system (peer review) before publication.” Journals must also have an active editorial board with at least five members with appropriate qualifications and expertise. The DOAJ Guide to Applying recommends that editors not be from the same institution and specifies that endogeny should be minimal. Specifically, “the proportion of published research papers where at least one of the authors is an editor, editorial board member or reviewer must not exceed 25% based on either of the latest two issues.”

Journals in STEM must have a peer-review process where at least two qualified external referees review each article. Those in the humanities can have a peer-review process or an editorial review workflow (with two editors reviewing all submissions at a minimum). In either case, 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., anonymous, double-anonymous, 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 regularly screens submissions for plagiarism (screening for plagiarism is not a DOAJ indexing requirement, but they strongly recommend it)
  • A link to a journal page with plagiarism policy information for those who indicate they do regular plagiarism screening in the question above (we overview plagiarism detection best practices, including how to establish clear plagiarism definitions and policies for editors and authors in this blog post)
  • A link to the journal’s Aims & Scope (usually on the “About” or “For Authors” page)
  • A link to the journal’s Editorial Board page (this should include the names and institutional affiliations of all editors)
  • A link to 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

For journals that display lists of reviewers anywhere on their website, the DOAJ Guide to Applying also specifies that it must include their names and affiliations.

5. Business model details

The DOAJ closely reviews all journals to ensure they have publicly available information regarding their funding model and any author fees (whether the journal charges author fees or not) in adherence with the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.” The DOAJ application requires the following information:

  • Whether the journal has any author fees (e.g., submission fees, editorial processing charges, article processing charges, page charges, color charges) — answer “yes” if any fees are required from authors to publish their paper
  • Those who answer “yes” to the previous question must also input the highest possible author fee and accepted currencies
  • A link to a page with author/publication fee information (this is required — so even if the journal charges no fees, that must be explicitly stated somewhere on the journal website, such as the “For Authors” page)
  • Whether the journal has a publication fee waiver policy for authors from low and/or middle-income economies (if “yes,” you’ll need to provide a link to a page with waiver policy information)
  • 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 more details about publication ethics, article discoverability, and preservation standards they follow. The DOAJ does not require these best practices for indexing, but they are strongly encouraged. The DOAJ best practices include:

  • Actively archiving articles in long-term preservation services (applicants must indicate which archives or repositories, such as Portico)
  • Publicly stating archiving policies on the journal website (journals that deposit articles into an archive must link to a page on their website with archiving information)
  • Allowing authors to deposit versions of their work into a repository of their choice, such as Sherpa/Romeo or an institutional repository
  • Publicly stating author self-archiving policies (journals that allow self-archiving must link to a page with the policy information on the journal/publisher’s site or in a directory)
  • Using persistent article identifiers (journals that have persistent identifiers for articles must indicate which ones — e.g., DOIs, PURLs)
  • Allowing ORCID iDs to be present in article metadata (indicate “yes” or “no”)
  • Complying with the I4OC standards for open citations (indicate “yes” or “no”)

As noted, the DOAJ does not require journals to meet these best practices to be eligible for indexing. However, they are necessary for journals that wish to receive the DOAJ Seal. Only around 10% of journals in the DOAJ have that badge of superior journal quality, so it’s an indicator of a high-caliber publication. You can find complete details on the DOAJ Seal requirements here.

Quick Scholastica users note: Scholastica’s OA publishing platform includes content registration, archiving, and indexing features to make meeting the above best practices easier for journals, including a Crossref DOI registration/metadata deposit integration option for Crossref members, a Portico content registration integration option for those signed up for that service, and the option to add ORCID iDs to articles. Journals using Scholastica’s peer review system can also customize their submission form to include an optional or required ORCID iD field for authors.

The DOAJ application process

Once you know your journal meets all the above indexing criteria, you can apply to the DOAJ here. Overall, the application process is fast and easy — so don’t sweat it! Just ensure you don’t skip any of the required questions. The DOAJ will reject applications with incorrect or incomplete information automatically.

Upon submitting your DOAJ application, you will receive a confirmation email (save this for reference!). Your application will go into the assessment queue. The DOAJ team reviews each application individually, which can take some time — so be patient. While waiting for a decision, remember to check ALL your email folders, including spam, to ensure you don’t accidentally miss an update message. The DOAJ team requires replies in a month or less for any emails they send.

If the DOAJ accepts your journal, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Once you complete the necessary next steps, you’ll then have the option to set up automatic DOAJ content deposits. You can do this on your own via the DOAJ API or use a ready-to-go journal integration from a software provider — like Scholastica’s OA publishing platform DOAJ integration, which automates all DOAJ article deposits for you. Alternatively, you can upload articles manually (though we generally don’t recommend this because it’s time-consuming and can lead to lower journal metadata quality).

If the DOAJ rejects your application for any reason, don’t worry, you can reapply! The DOAJ will send you details about the reasoning for that decision and usually allow you to reapply within six months.

Answers to DOAJ indexing FAQs

We’ve included this section to answer DOAJ indexing questions the Scholastica team commonly hears. If you have any to add, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help you get an answer!

Does the DOAJ have a minimum publication time for new OA journals?

The DOAJ doesn’t have a fixed minimum publication time for new OA journals. However, journals must have published at least 10 OA research articles to be eligible to apply to the DOAJ or demonstrate a 1+ year history of fully OA publishing.

Does the DOAJ allow “flipped” OA journals to apply?

Yes! Subscription journals that flip to a fully-OA publishing model can apply to the DOAJ as soon as they meet the criteria of having published at least 10 OA research articles or a 1+ year history of fully OA publishing, along with all other DOAJ indexing requirements.

Additionally, the journal must clearly state that it was previously subscription or hybrid access on its website, including the following information:

  • The date the journal became fully open access
  • Archive material availability (open access, free, or paywalled)
  • Reuse rights of archived material (all rights reserved or open license)

Does the DOAJ consider the Journal Impact Factor when reviewing applications?

No! In fact, the DOAJ does not approve of the use of Impact Factors or ranking metrics. The DOAJ permits journals to display a Journal Impact Factor calculated by Clarivate and/or Scopus impact metrics. However, the DOAJ team will not consider impact metrics during application review.

What are the DOAJ’s guidelines for journals that publish special issues?

Journals may publish special issues so long as their editor in chief remains responsible for the contents, guest editor credentials are vetted, and papers submitted by guest editors make up no more than 25% of the issue’s total. Special issue submissions must also receive the same editorial oversight as regular papers (including external peer review). You can learn more about the DOAJ’s latest special issue guidelines here.

If my organization publishes multiple fully OA journals, do we have to submit separate DOAJ applications for each one?

Yes! You must submit a separate application for each OA journal 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 get in.

Does my organization have to become a DOAJ supporter to apply for indexing?

The short answer is, no. For more details: You may notice that the DOAJ website includes three “support” categories: sponsors, publisher supporters, and supporters. Becoming a DOAJ supporter is not a DOAJ indexing requirement and does not affect DOAJ indexing applications in any way. All DOAJ journal applications are treated equally.

With that said, becoming a DOAJ supporter is a way to help financially contribute to the ongoing maintenance and development of the DOAJ, so it’s a great opportunity to give back to this leading free indexing service!

How long does it take to get a decision from the DOAJ?

The DOAJ website states: “The time from submission to decision varies greatly and is dependent on the responsiveness of the journal contact and/or applicant. Generally a decision is reached within three months. We cannot provide a status update for applications which are less than three months old.”

Putting it all together

Overall, for the DOAJ, and any index you apply to have a journal included in, you must clearly and accurately state all required information within the application and on your journal’s website. Indexing criteria ensure journal quality and should be something 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 meet core standards like the DOAJ indexing requirements, visit the Why Scholastica page.

Update note: This blog post was originally published on the 19th of June 2019 and updated and republished on the 8th of June 2023 to reflect the latest DOAJ indexing guidelines.

OA Publishing Guide