Growth of DOAJ: steady 2003-2007, major spike in 2008

There’s some uncertainty as to exactly how quickly the ranks of open access journals are growing. As Heather Morrison notes in a recent blog post, as early as 2005 some were arguing (with data) that the peak growth of open access journals was past. The current conventional wisdom seems to be that growth rates are higher than ever.

Unfortunately, we’re working with limited data. The best source for information about open access is the Directory of Open Access Journals. Unfortunately, the DOAJ only offers two pieces of chronodata about the journals it lists: when the journal started and when the journal was added to DOAJ.

Heather’s post explains why start year can be misleading: first, it underrepresents recently-started journals, which may take a while to come to the attention of DOAJ editors and make it through the vetting process; second, it lists when a journal started publication, not when it became OA. If a journal started publication in 1990 but converted to OA in 2005, its start year will be listed as 1990. If you want to know when a journal became OA, that’s not helpful.

Date added also is not necessarily indicative of when a journal became OA, either. If a journal started in 2005 only came to the attention of the DOAJ today, its date added wouldn’t reflect when the journal started.

In an ideal world, DOAJ would list a third date, indicating when the journal became OA. (For journals born OA, this would obviously be the same as the start date; for converts, it’d be the date of the conversion.) Unfortunately, this information isn’t always readily available, and it’s not listed in DOAJ. So the short answer is, it’s hard to know exactly how quickly the ranks of OA journals are growing.

With that said, it’s still interesting to know when journals were added to the DOAJ. Interestingly, according to data from the DOAJ’s new titles page, roughly the same number of journals were added each year from 2003-2007. To date, 2008 is a significant increase over previous years; if the growth rate from the first 10 months of the year holds for the last 2, it’ll be nearly a 50% increase. (Click the thumbnail to see the chart full size.)

Additions to the DOAJ, 2002-present

Year # of titles added
2002 26
2003 577
2004 602
2005 618
2006 549
2007 598
2008 (to date) 727
2008 (projected) 872

My guess would be the actual number for 2008 by year end would be in the 750-850 range — I’m guessing we’ll slow down a bit as we approach the end of the semester and the holidays. It’s still a big jump from the past several years. Assuming the data’s accurate, I wonder why: are more journals being submitted for inclusion, or are more journals meeting DOAJ’s selection criteria (e.g. to have an ISSN), or are there simply more journals in existence?

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One Response to Growth of DOAJ: steady 2003-2007, major spike in 2008

  1. Heather Morrison says:

    This is very good information and questions, Gavin. Some more factors to consider:

    DOAJ weeds titles that no longer meet their criteria (journals must be OA, active, and peer reviewed or equivalent). Lars from DOAJ mentioned recently that they have weeded about 30 titles over the years. The chances of a title being weeded increase after it has been in for a while (i.e., 2004 titles are more likely to be weeded than 2008 ones).

    DOAJ has increased staffing in the past year or two – not by a lot, but it does make a difference.

    In spite of this, there do seem to be more new OA titles, and other evidence of an increasing trend to OA start-ups and conversion, such as the recent announcement that there are now more than 2,000 journals using the free, open source OJS software – about half of OJS journals are fully open access (and almost all are at least free back issues journals).

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