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Counting OA Journals

By Peek, Robin | Information Today, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Counting OA Journals


Peek, Robin, Information Today


Focus on Publishing

I think we are getting confused about what an open access journal actually is. Granted, we never had an ironclad definition of what a print journal was either. But I have seen this problem brewing for a while. "The facts about Open Access" suggested that we definitely have a counting problem too.

Released in October, the report is "a study of the financial and non-financial effects of alternative business models for scholarly journals." The Kaufman-Wills Group conducted the research, and the report was sponsored by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and High Wire Press/Stanford University Libraries.

I am not going to comment on the report itself, but one of the major data points used in the study concerned me. The authors cite the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) as "widely viewed as the definitive listing of Full Open Access Journals." Some of the findings in the study, however, suggest that there are some problems with using DOAJ as a data source.

According to the report, "It had been rumored that the DOAJ database contained journals that were not in fact Full Open Access. As was borne out by the survey data, virtually all (95 [percent]) were. ... It seems curious, however, that 5 (percent] said they were not-one wonders how they came to be included in the DOAJ in the first place." But more importantly, it looks like there's a mixing of content in DOAJ as well.

How Many OA Journals?

Which journal deserves to be a scholarly journal? This is not merely an academic question, because in survey research, many respondents decline to answer because they don't feel qualified once they examine the instrument. There is an alternative explanation in the case of the journals listed in DOAJ: English isn't the native language for many journals. Unfortunately, we don't know which explanation accounts for the problems in the study, because the researchers promised anonymity to the respondents.

According to the DOAJ selection criteria, "a substantive part of the journal should consist of research papers. All content should be available in full text." As I quickly scanned DOAtTs entries, I found that some folks apply the term "journal" liberally. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (BASIST) listed in DOAJ. As a long-standing member of the society and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (the peer-reviewed research journal), I know BASIST is neither peerreviewed nor is it intended to be a research vehicle.

The ASIST Web site describes BASIST as the society's "primary means of maintaining regular contact with its membership regarding ASIST activities; a vehicle for sharing news and information regarding developments in the fields of information science and technology, including policy and political developments; and an avenue for publishing opinions and quality, brief articles on timely, controversial, or non-research developments in the information science field." Yes, researchers write articles for BASIST, but not everything that a scholar pens is peer-reviewed.

It didn't take me long to find another exception: D-Lib Magazine. Here, "the primary goal of the magazine is timely and efficient information exchange for the digital library community.

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Counting OA Journals
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