Systematize information on journal policies and practices - A call to action
Recently the creators of Transpose and the Platform for Responsible Editorial Policies convened an online workshop on infrastructures that provide information on scholarly journals. In this blog post they look back at the workshop and discuss next steps.
In most research fields, journals play a dominant role in the scholarly communication system. However, the availability of systematic information on the policies and practices of journals, for instance with respect to peer review and open access publishing, is surprisingly limited and scattered. Of course we have the journal impact factor, as well as a range of other citation-based journal metrics (e.g., CiteScore, SNIP, SJR, and Eigenfactor), but these metrics provide information only on one very specific aspect of a journal. As is widely recognized, there is a strong need for a wider range of information on journals (see for instance here and here). Such information is for instance needed to facilitate responsible evaluation practices, to promote open access publishing, and to improve journal peer review.
Various infrastructures provide information on aspects of scholarly journals, for instance:
- Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
- Plan S Journal Checker Tool (under development)
- Platform for Responsible Editorial Policies (PREP)
- TOP Factor
- Cabells Journalytics (requires subscription)
- Quality Open Access Market (QOAM)
- National journal registers (e.g., in Norway)
Even though this list of infrastructures (which is definitely not comprehensive) may look impressive at first sight, it in fact leaves much to be desired. There are at least three problems. First, many of the above-mentioned infrastructures provide information only for a limited number of journals or publishers. Much information is missing, and information may also be inaccurate or outdated. Second, there is little coordination between the various infrastructures. They all operate independently from each other, leading to a scattered landscape. Insiders may understand the unique information provided by each infrastructure, but most researchers, publishers, and funders are likely to get lost in the multitude of infrastructures and data sources. Third, for many of the above-mentioned infrastructures, the longer-term sustainability is unclear. Infrastructures are often run by small teams working with very limited resources.
In May 2020, in our roles as the creators of Transpose and PREP, we convened an online workshop to discuss ways to address the above-mentioned problems, in particular by exploring possibilities for collaboration between the various infrastructures. About 35 participants attended the workshop, including representatives of infrastructure organizations (e.g. representatives of the above listed initiatives and members of COPE, CrossRef, etc.), scholarly publishers, and research funders. Representatives of six infrastructure initiatives (i.e., PREP, Transpose, the STM taxonomy working group, TOP Factor, DOAJ, and SHERPA/RoMEO) gave short presentations, explaining their mission and scope as well as their perspective on collaboration with other initiatives. This was followed by a break-out session in which the workshop participants had more in-depth discussions about possibilities for collaboration.
The workshop has shown that there are many promising ways in which the different infrastructures could work together. This ranges from the development of a standardized terminology to describe the activities of journals (building on the work of the STM taxonomy working group), to the introduction of cross-links between the websites of the different infrastructures and, more ambitiously, to initiatives aimed at making the different infrastructures fully interoperable and perhaps even at setting up an integrated infrastructure. In practical terms, the outcome of the workshop has been to start working together on two immediate next steps:
- Comparing infrastructures. To obtain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the various infrastructures, we plan to perform a systematic comparison of the information provided by each of the infrastructures.
- Shared terminology or taxonomy. Different infrastructures use different terminologies, which may cause confusion and limit interoperability. To address this issue, we plan to work on the development of a shared terminology or taxonomy via the Doc Maps project led by the Knowledge Futures group.
Depending on the availability of resources and the level of support from the community, these two steps will hopefully provide a starting point for a more ambitious long-term agenda, aimed at working toward some kind of integrated infrastructure for providing systematic and reliable information on scholarly journals. We hope to involve all relevant stakeholders in this endeavor. Let us know if you would like to join!