DOAJ raises inclusion bar and adopts a Seal of Approval difficult for many open access law journals to attain

Open Access Week is a good time to raise awareness of recent policy changes made by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) that affect all listed journals, including 36 law journals published in the United States.  Importantly, these changes could cause some journals to lose their DOAJ listing and others to be disqualified from receiving the new DOAJ Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals.

What DOAJ is and what it is seeking to accomplish

DOAJ is a directory and article search engine.  It lists open access journals that contain scientific and scholarly content developed through quality control processes (i.e., via an editorial board or peer review system) and that meet specified coverage and access criteria.[1]  DOAJ has defined open access journals as those (1) that do not charge their users or institutions for access and (2) that allow users to “ ‘read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles.’ ”[2]

In an effort to establish itself as “a trusted and reliable information resource that identifies good quality open access journals and filters out disreputable publishers,” DOAJ has raised the bar on journal inclusion.  Following a one-month public comment period that began in June, last month DOAJ finalized changes to its inclusion criteria and put finishing touches on the DOAJ Seal.[3]  These new criteria are currently contained in the draft application, released by DOAJ in September 2013 along with a summary of pubic comments

Criteria for inclusion in DOAJOrange open access logo in shape of an open padlock

To be listed in DOAJ, journals will have to complete a form that currently numbers 33 fields.  Some of the fields pertain to basic journal information, but the bulk of the application sets forth the requirements related to the journal’s funding model, use of permanent article-level identifiers, publication format, available metadata, editorial processes, and levels of openness.[4]  The specific requirements are too numerous to cover here but should be carefully reviewed by journal editors, since currently listed journals will be re-evaluated for compliance by DOAJ within the next year.[5]  The draft application does state that failure to meet all criteria will not automatically disqualify the journal.  Details about how long currently listed journals have to comply will be forthcoming.[6]  Journals can subscribe to DOAJ’s RSS feed or follow @DOAJplus on Twitter for updates.

Law librarian support of law journal publishing

Law librarians at U.S. institutions that publish DOAJ-listed journals could support them during the transition.  Editors could be alerted to the changes and provided with a policy inventory checklist covering the new inclusion criteria.  Librarians might also help journals develop policies and mechanisms for detecting plagiarism and for assigning permanent article-level identifiers.  Law librarians Benjamin Keele and Michelle Pearse provide excellent guidance on these issues in their article, “How Librarians Can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing.”[7]

Qualifying for the new DOAJ Seal of Approval

Close-up photo of a content seal basking in the sun

Seal of approval, by Kyknoord
Flickr CCBY 2.0

Entirely new to DOAJ is the development of a Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals.  DOAJ has had a SPARC Europe Seal since 2008 for publishers that provide journal content under the generous Creative Commons CC-BY license and article-level metadata to DOAJ.  The new seal adds five other requirements.  To obtain a Seal of Approval, a journal must

  • Use DOIs (digital object identifiers) as permanent article-level identifiers
  • Provide article-level metadata to DOAJ
  • Have a long-term digital preservation arrangement in place with an external party[8]
  • Embed machine-readable CC copyright information in its articles’ metadata
  • Allow generous reuse and remixing of its content, in accordance with a CC-BY license
  • Allow the author(s) to retain the copyright of the work without restriction
  • Have a deposit policy registered in a deposit policy directory[9]

While some of these criteria may present a hurdle to listed law journals, this post focuses on the DOI requirement, as these identifiers have not been widely used in legal scholarship and impose an additional cost on providing free content.

“What’s a DOI?”

Most law journals don’t use DOIs, so you may be wondering what they are.  A DOI is an alphanumeric string of characters assigned to a digital object to persistently identify the object and point to its location on the Internet via an associated uniform resource locator (URL).[10]  To assign DOIs to articles, a journal must be a fee-paying member of CrossRef, a DOI link registration agency for scholarly publications.  The per-article deposit fee is $1.00.  Journals would have to provide and maintain the accuracy of article-level metadata and submit the citations of each article.[11]  There are other persistent identifier systems out there, but use of the DOI system is exclusively required to obtain the DOAJ Seal.

Few law reviews assign article-level DOIs,[12] and open access law journals are no different.  There are currently 196 open access law journals indexed in DOAJ, including 36 published in the United States.[13]  Of the U.S. journals, 72%, or 26 journals, do not use DOIs.[14]  This criterion alone disqualifies most listed law journals from receiving the DOAJ Seal.  Not having the seal could carry the taint of being a less credible journal even though the seal requirements are technical.

Consortia, library support for journals that adopt DOI

While DOAJ acknowledged in its summary of public comments that there are other permanent identifier systems and that some publisher groups don’t use DOIs, it retained the DOI criterion as a “best practice in academic publishing.”[15]  DOAJ will explore small-publisher solutions with CrossRef.[16]

Open access law journals with limited resources could form a journal consortium to share CrossRef costs.[17]  Maintaining accurate metadata is, however, particularly difficult for student-edited journals with editorial boards that change from year to year.[18]  Contracting with a vendor to provide DOI services may be an option.[19]  Alternatively, librarians or library consortia could support journals by providing the expertise and continuity needed to manage DOIs.

DOAJ listing is critical, but what about the DOAJ Seal?

Retaining a journal’s DOAJ listing is critical as both a discovery and a credentialing aid.  But how important to open access law journals is the DOAJ Seal?  Can law journals feasibly meet other Seal criteria, like the required CC-BY license?  I’d love to hear from law journals, librarians, or other readers below or on the L.J. eds. Facebook Page.

[2] Ibid. (quoting the Budapest Open Access Initiative).

[3] DOAJ, “DOAJ Publishes Response to Public Feedback on Revised Selection Criteria and a Roadmap,” news release, September 16, 2013,

[4] DOAJ, “Draft Application for Inclusion in DOAJ,” September 2013,

[5] DOAJ, “DOAJ Announces New Selection Criteria,” news release, June 12, 2013,

[6] DOAJ, “Summary of All Feedback Received During the Open Period to Draft 1 of the Revised DOAJ Selection Criteria,” item #10, news release, September 2013 (v.2),

[7] Benjamin J. Keele and Michelle Pearse, “How Librarians Can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing,” Law Library Journal 104, no. 3 (2012): 391–95,

[8] Examples are LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, and Portico.

[9] DOAJ, “Draft Application.”  An example of a deposit policy directory is SHERPA/RoMEO.

[10] “FastFacts,”, July 25, 2013,

[11] Ibid.

[12] Benjamin J. Keele, “A Primer on Digital Object Identifiers for Law Librarians,” Trends in Law Library Management and Technology 20 (2010): 38,

[13] Based on a manual count.  “Browse by Subject>Law and Political Science >Law,” DOAJ, October 23, 2013,

[14] CrossRef, “Title List,” October 21, 2013,  A list of U.S. law journals currently listed in DOAJ, along with a notation for those not using DOIs, is included in my Notes app on the L.J. eds. Facebook Page.

[15] DOAJ, “Summary of All Feedback,” item #8.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Keele discussed this as a possible option for law journals in general.  Keele, “Primer,” 39.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.


5 thoughts on “DOAJ raises inclusion bar and adopts a Seal of Approval difficult for many open access law journals to attain

  1. Pingback: A Primer on Digital Object Identifiers for Law Librarians ← Benjamin J. Keele

  2. Pingback: How Librarians can Help Improve Law Journal Publishing ← Benjamin J. Keele

  3. Pingback: Corralling hosted journals with MOUs | The Lib Pub

  4. Pingback: Open access law journals must provide information required in new DOAJ application form by year’s end | L.J. eds.

  5. Pingback: A Primer on Digital Object Identifiers for Law Librarians - Benjamin J. Keele - Law LibrarianBenjamin J. Keele -- Law Librarian

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