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“Key to the process was also the need for continued alignment with initiatives in the countries involved”

and readers that the journals meet an internationally recognised set of criteria at a particular level. In addition to a JPPS level, the editors of each assessed journal receive detailed reports of their assessments, customised for each journal to provide guidance about strengths and areas for improvement. Journal editors can use – and are already using – the detailed feedback from the JPPS assessment to help them identify ways to improve their publishing practices and standards, with a view to achieving a higher level at the next assessment. The Handbook for Journal Editors and a

recently piloted online course have been developed as resources to help journal editors in their development. Editors can apply for JPPS reassessment after six months to a year if they have evidence of improvements in publishing processes.

Background The idea for Journal Publishing Practices and Standards (JPPS) was conceived in 2014 and AJOL began discussing with African journal editors about appropriate criteria for their contexts. At the same time, AJOL started discussing the idea with long-term partner INASP, which was running five JOL platforms in Asia and Central America. The JPPS framework criteria, processes and implementation plan were then jointly developed by INASP and AJOL. INASP trialled and implemented the assessments with the journals on several of the largest JOLs during 2016/17. The framework was formally launched

in September 2017, and results of the assessments began to be displayed on the JPPS website and the relevant JOLs platforms early this year. Developing such a system is not quick or simple – and conducting a detailed assessment process with an emphasis on support to journal editors is a lengthy process, too.

The inclusion criteria and standards

set out by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) from March 2014, SciELO South Africa, Clarivate (formerly Thomson Reuters), Scopus, the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), the Forum | @researchinfo

of African Medical Editors (FAME) Editorial Guidelines, and the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing were used as part of the development of the framework. Key to the process was the need for

continued alignment with initiatives in the countries involved and ensuring that the JPPS initiative remains Southern-led and relevant to Southern needs. To ensure relevance to journals publishing from developing countries, INASP and AJOL compiled the framework on the basis of decades of experience of contexts, norms and practices in developing-country journal publishing, and also on feedback from journal editors in Africa. In addition, we ensured alignment with other activities going on within the countries we work in. In Bangladesh, for example, a parallel and complimentary initiative has emerged to develop a roadmap for improving journal quality in the country. Aligning multiple activities inevitably adds to complexity of the process, but it is also an encouraging sign of the need for such activities and an opportunity to work more closely with strong Southern advocates of journal publishing quality.

Making a difference Reports have been sent to journal editors in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Central America and Africa and the JPPS site and JOLs platforms now display badges for these 900-plus journals. In addition, we have received scores of positive responses. Most editors not only thank us for the assessments and reports, but also detail plans to improve their journal processes and receive higher rankings. Some of these changes required are simple. For example, the JPPS criteria are very strict about prompt uploading of content. This can be a challenge with a journal run by volunteers who are also busy with their research and teaching commitments. In response to the JPPS assessments, several journals that had got behind with populating their latest issues were prompted to catch up, resulting in their JPPS ranking changing from

‘inactive’ to ‘one-star’ or ‘two-star’ status, depending on the other criteria met.

Responses include: • ‘Thank you for your extensive feedback. We are very encouraged with this outcome. I will definitely work with my editorial team members and improve on those areas that warrant change’;

• ‘Your evaluation report will certainly help us to enhance the quality of our journal. We will address all issues raised during the assessment and take necessary measures to resolve the problems’; and

• ‘I firmly believe that this award has increased our responsibility and hope to go forward’.

The future AJOL and INASP have been grateful for funding and encouragement from Sida and DFID over many years to support the development of the JOLs platforms and, more recently, the JPPS initiative. We are pleased to have continued support from Sida for this work over the next year, but we are also keen to discuss other funding opportunities to extend this work. On the technical side, we are working

towards an online form (and database) to streamline the assessment process. This would be a tool that new journals could use in applying to join a JOL platform, and also that those already on the platforms could use in their applications for reassessment. Extensions to JPPS might include going

beyond the JOLs platforms, in partnership with other Southern journal platforms. In addition, we hope to roll out a full online course in journal quality after feedback and refinement from the current pilot. In the meantime, we are delighted that JPPS is a finalist for the 2018 ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing and we look forward to sharing more about this initiative at the ALPSP conference in September.

A fully referenced version of this article is available at

Siân Harris is a communications specialist at INASP

August/September 2018 Research Information 27

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