Since OASPA was established a decade ago we have been committed to demonstrating that open access publishing can be of the highest quality and have worked to achieve this both within our membership and beyond by setting high standards and guiding publishers in best practice. One of the ways we have done this is by having a very strict set of membership criteria which we expect publishers to meet before we approve them to join OASPA, and which we expect them to continue to adhere to as members of the organisation.
Over the past few years we have also worked with allied organisations on a set of shared principles of best practice for journals. The recommendations highlight the basic criteria that we all share, and we have often discussed the overlap and duplication in our membership application procedures. In particular we are closely aligned with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and we have been fortunate to have had Lars Bjørnshauge on the OASPA Board for the past few years. Similar to OASPA, the DOAJ have also been refining their review process but, unlike OASPA, have a large team dedicated to handling applications which are evaluated at the journal level rather than at the publisher level. Although the purpose of our organisations is slightly different, we have many similarities in our approach for vetting members for inclusion.
As explained below (see Background), applications to OASPA have been rapidly increasing, in particular from single journals. Given the overlap in the screening criteria between DOAJ and OASPA, and that DOAJ is primarily an index of reputable open-access journals, we have agreed with the DOAJ that, with immediate effect, all single journals that apply to OASPA will now be referred to the DOAJ if the journal is not already listed in DOAJ. We feel that this is also in the best interests of single journal applicants because indexing by the DOAJ is the most effective way for those journals to increase their visibility, which is frequently their stated reason for applying to join OASPA.
Once approved by the DOAJ, applicants that still wish to be part of OASPA should get back in touch with us. However they should note that, as we are looking for members that can demonstrate they share our commitment to progressing open access publishing, we have some specific requirements which differ from those of the DOAJ, particularly with respect to licensing in which OASPA membership criteria requires the use of CC BY or CC BY-NC for journals. The DOAJ, as a directory, doesn’t stipulate a license, just that the license information is clear. So, for a number of reasons, approval by the DOAJ will not automatically mean acceptance by OASPA.
The number of membership applications submitted to OASPA has typically risen by between 30-50% each year. In total there have been more than 500 applications to OASPA from professional publishers, from scholars publishing a single journal, or from organisations that support open access publishing in various ways. But as application numbers have steadily grown, the increasing strain on our resources has became apparent. And, sadly, as application numbers rise we find the acceptance rate is falling as a larger proportion of applications do not show the level of quality we require. Current figures put our acceptance rate at less than 10% for the past 12 months.
Not all of the applications that aren’t accepted are actually rejected. Often some further information is required which is never provided, or some final points may need to be addressed by a publisher which are never responded to. But whatever the outcome, it is evident that much of our time is therefore being spent processing applications which we subsequently aren’t able to accept, and hence isn’t contributing in any way to the growth of the organisation.
Information about our membership process is available on our website, and we regularly monitor the outcomes. Last year we also shared our experiences on the complex nature of assessing applicants as discussions about black-listing journals came to the fore. We constantly review the procedures we use to see how we can make them more efficient. Last year we changed our application form to make our core requirements even clearer and flag the need for those points to be in place before submitting the form. The impact of this is not something which is easily measurable, but it at least seems that application numbers have stabilised instead of increasing further.
One consequence of this new policy is that within the current OASPA membership we have Scholar Publisher members who have not applied to the DOAJ and hence are not currently listed there. We also added some additional criteria for new applicants when we upgraded the membership application form last year, such as a requirement for archiving, which may also not be in place across all of our members. We are in the process of reviewing our existing members and will work with them to encourage improvements in the areas we now have introduced as standard.
The DOAJ’s announcement of this new agreement can be found on their website here.