Improving the DOAJ metadata – Why and how

by: Xuan Zhao & Heather Morrison


The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ, is an essential world-wide open access service (16,134 journals listed, as of March 29, 2021), which promotes quality, peer-reviewed open access journals. The journals included can get higher and broader visibility. To make the most of this service, journal editors need to pay attention to the accuracy of their entries in the DOAJ metadata (journal-title, publisher information, location information, subject, language, URLs, etc.). This post aims to explain the benefits for journals of improving the quality of metadata and what journal editors can do. 

Our discussion is mainly based on recent research of the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons team and cites some other researchers’ findings. 

For journals, what are the benefits of improving the DOAJ metadata?

As detailed on the DOAJ website (DOAJ,, there are five benefits for journals indexed in DOAJ, and accordingly, five reasons to improve the metadata: 

  1. “Reputation and prominence”

“DOAJ is the most important community-driven, open access service in the world and has a reputation for advocating best practices and standards in open access. By indexing your journal in DOAJ, its reputation and prominence will be enhanced.”

We assume that journals with accurate and precise entries can give a serious and active impression, helping them maintain the reputation. 

  1. “Standards and best practice”

“DOAJ’s basic criteria for inclusion have become the accepted way of measuring an open access journal’s adherence to standards in scholarly publishing. We can help you adopt a range of ethical and quality standards, making your journals more attractive publishing channels. DOAJ is committed to combatting questionable publishers and questionable publishing practices, helping to protect researchers from becoming trapped by unethical journals.”

As open access journals are listed in a quality standards system like DOAJ, it is important to make sure that their information is correct to distinguish them from the questionable journals undoubtedly. 

  1. “Funding and compliance”

“Open access publication funds often require that authors who want funding must publish in journals that are included in DOAJ. Indexing in DOAJ makes your journals compliant with many initiatives and programmes around the world, for example Plan S in Europe or Capes/Qualis in Brazil.”

With correct entries in metadata, the DOAJ journals can be more easily discovered by foundations, related programmes and organizations.

  1. “Discoverability and visibility”

“DOAJ metadata is free for anyone to collect and use, which means it is easily incorporated into search engines and discovery services. It is then propagated across the internet. If you provide us with article metadata for your journal, this will be supplied to all the major aggregators and the many research organisations and university library portals who use our widgets, RSS feeds, API and other services. Indexing your journal in DOAJ is likely to increase traffic to your website and give greater exposure to your published content. Levels of traffic to a journal website typically increase threefold after inclusion in DOAJ. Your journal’s visibility in search engines, such as Google, will improve.”

Indexing journals in DOAJ means they are more easily discovered and cited by other researchers. Correcting metadata will help raise the chances that people working in the same area will find the relevant research they need.

  1. “International coverage”

“Our database includes more open access journals from a diverse list of countries than any of the other major indexing services. We have a global editorial team via a network of Managing Editors, Ambassadors and volunteers, so we will do our best to offer local support in your language. We promise you that information about your journal will be seen around the world.”

The DOAJ journals are aimed at readers from all over the world and may be seen by people who are not proficient in the journals’ language. In this case, journal editors need to ensure the correctness of data entry so that readers can read with confidence. 

What’s more, a higher quality database will be more valuable for researchers and promote the entire OA ecosystem. Especially for services like university libraries, which tend to keep up with the latest content and take advantage of metadata corrections. 

In brief, keeping the entries of DOAJ metadata correct reinforces the advantages for journals mentioned above and benefits the users of DOAJ. 

As journal editors, what can we do?

As demonstrated in a study of the SKC (Zhao, Borges & Morrison, 2021), “as of January 5, 2021, only 30% of DOAJ journals have a ‘last update’ date within the previous year (2020)”, which means only 30% of DOAJ journals fully or partially updated their information in DOAJ system. To make the best use of DOAJ, journal editors should regularly check their entries to ensure that their data is correct and up to date. For example, if journal URLs are not kept up to date, an incorrect URL means, at best, that the journal cannot be found. Crawford (2016), in a study of DOAJ journals, found journals flagged that were as malware (or as containing malware) by Mal- warebytes, Windows Defender, McAfee Site Advisor or Office 2013. 

Most of the visible inconsistencies in the metadata are input errors or location errors (listed below). Most of the input errors are “small differences in punctuation and/or characters, extra spaces at the beginning and/or at the end”, as reported by SKC (Zhao, Borges & Morrison, 2021). Combined with the findings of Crawford (2016), we list the data to be modified by categories as follows:

  • Input error or location error in:

wrong column, journal title, special character, keywords, copyright information URL, plagiarism information URL, URL for journal’s instructions for authors, other submission fees information URL, preservation services, preservation service: national library, preservation information URL, deposit policy directory, persistent article identifiers, URL for journal’s open access statement, etc. 

  • Publisher name duplicates:

Extra space or short of space, minor detail (e.g. non-English character in one but not the other), minor difference in punctuations and/or characters (e.g. “Abant İzzet Baysal Üniversitesi” vs. “Abant İzzet Baysal University”), abbreviation in one but not the other (e.g. “Asociación Interuniversitaria de Investigación Pedagógía” vs. “Asociación Interuniversitaria de Investigacion Pedagogica (AIDIPE)”), etc.

  • “APC-charging journals that don’t clearly state the amount charged” (Crawford, 2016)

Sometimes it is hard to indicate “who is the publisher”. We list some situations below:

  • When there are branch publishers under one publisher, and all of them are recorded in DOAJ, especially when their journals’ websites do not have any clear indications ;
  • When a publisher has more than one active names (perhaps due to different sponsors of one publisher, or the nature of commercial publishers), but their journals’ websites do not have any clear indications ;
  • When journals changed their websites but didn’t renew the URLs in the DOAJ database;
  • Invalid URLs;
  • Unmatched publisher name/journal name and URLs.

DOAJ also provides article-level search and is working to encourage more journals to provide article-level metadata. It makes both the journal-level and article-level metadata available for anyone to download. (DOAJ, Thus, it would be better if journal editors can ensure the correctness of the articles’ information. 


Crawford, W. (2016). Gold Open Access Journals 2011 – 2015

Directory of Open Access Journals. Retrieved March 29, 2021, from

Public data dump. Directory of Open Access Journals. Retrieved March 29, 2021, from

Why index your journal in DOAJ? Directory of Open Access Journals. Retrieved March 29, 2021, from

Zhao, X., Borges, L., & Morrison, H. (2021). Some limitations of DOAJ metadata for research purposes. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons

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