In a first for ERIC, the supply of education research content the program aspires to index is regularly exceeding its capacity to do so. For the past 15 years, ERIC has consistently indexed 4,000 records a month. This pace has allowed us to index all approved sources without significant delays. However, over the past two years, the volume of content published in our approved sources has doubled. This has resulted in a backlog of publishable content and, as a result, ERIC cannot index new work in a timely fashion.
As part of our periodic collection analyses, we have been investigating potential causes of this backlog. We have found that several journals are publishing far more content than when they were originally selected to be included in ERIC. For example, one journal was publishing fewer than 20 articles per year when approved, but now is publishing over 850 per year. This is close to a 5000% increase in production.
An increased volume of published work in the education sciences—as a whole—is a good thing. However, when an individual journal dramatically increases the number of articles it publishes, it is noteworthy. In those instances, ERIC wants to ensure that the journal is still adhering to the standards and criteria it met when originally included in the index, including rigorously applying the peer-review process, if applicable, and maintaining its original aim and scope. Both are important to ensuring that work contained in ERIC is of high quality and that a wide range of key topics in education can be indexed.
ERIC’s Selection Policy already requires an ongoing review of currently indexed sources, including identifying sources that may no longer meet the Policy’s standard and criteria. As part of that review, ERIC will now identify journals that have published over twice as many articles from the year it was accepted and flag them for further review. As part of that review, ERIC will assess whether the increase is temporary and associated with a unique event, like a special issue, or if the increase reflects an ongoing trend. If the review indicates the increase is persistent, the ERIC team will recommend that indexing of that journal be paused. If a pause is approved, ERIC will stop indexing subsequent issues for a two-year period. The journal will also be removed from ERIC’s Journals List, because this list only contains actively indexed journals.
After the two-year pause, ERIC will re-review the journal. If ERIC reinstates the journal, ERIC will notify the journal and will index any content published during the two-year pause. If the journal is not reinstated, ERIC will not index any issues published during the pause.
This decision has led to a few questions:
- Why can’t ERIC index everything? ERIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and has limited resources. It must prioritize indexing the highest quality education research, include content for all topic areas, and can only index a set number of records per month.
- What is the concern with the increased volume? Increased volume may signal that the journal has changed scope to accommodate a broader set of articles or that quality assurance processes have been affected in a rush-to-publish environment. Particularly among journals that were considered to be peer reviewed when originally accepted into ERIC, the publication of articles shortly after submission may signal a substantive change in a journal’s quality assurance process such that they no longer meet the criteria needed to receive that designation. There is also a concern that if a journal greatly produces more records than estimated, the collection will get skewed in a way which would favor one topic area over another.
- How will ERIC identify the journals to pause? As part of the source selection process, ERIC will monitor two years of current publishing and compare the number of articles published to the number published during the year the journal was selected for ERIC.
- Why is the pause for two years? The ERIC Selection Policy says that sources may be reviewed after 2 years (24 months). To be consistent with this policy, we will automatically review paused sources after this same time frame.
- How will I know if my journal is paused? ERIC will email the journal representatives to inform them of this decision in the coming weeks.
- Can my journal appeal the decision to be paused? Journals may not appeal the decision to pause indexing. However, if at the end of the pause period the journal is not automatically reinstated, journals may apply for re-review 24 months later.
- What is ERIC looking for in the automatic review at the end of the pause period? ERIC will conduct a full review of the journal and consider the two years of published content against the criteria set forth in the ERIC Selection Policy.
- Can authors submit their article published in a “paused” journal via online submission during this period? No, authors must wait for a re-review of the journal to be conducted after the two-year pause. If the journal is selected again, the articles from the paused issues will be indexed in ERIC.