Tutorial 31: ways to start a new open-access journal

July 12, 2016

A few months ago I got an email from Nathan Myers, who asked me:

Do you have advice for someone who wants to spin up a new OA journal? Is there automation for the boring parts? Is someone you know well versed in what to do?

In many ways, I’m the wrong person to ask: I’ve never started a journal, OA or otherwise, nor even served on an editorial board.

But, hey, I’m not one to let something like that stop me. So here’s what I told Nathan. I’m sure I missed a lot of important possibilities: please point them out in this comments. I’ll try to keep this post updated as the landscape changes.

There are several good options at this point.

The simplest and cheapest is probably to use Annotum, a WordPress plugin that helps with the review workflow. I’ve not used it myself, but I know it’s what PLOS Currents uses, so it’s obvious battle-ready. I’m not sure but I think you can use it as a theme in a wordpress.com-hosted free blog.

Scholastica offers very low-cost support for running an overlay journal, as for example the recently launched Discrete Analysis: see Tim Gowers’ blog-post about the new journal.

Open Journals Systems is a widely used software package for running open-access journals — IIRC they have more that 10,000 running installations worldwide. I’ve not used it, but it evidently has what it takes.

If you have some funding to cover production charges, or are able to charge an APC, you can use a full-service option from a low-cost OA publisher such as Ubiquity Press.

PeerJ’s system is widely liked — very easy for authors and reviewers to use. Its software is all on GitHub, though I think some work would be needed to tie it all together. If you have the software engineering chops, this may be the best option for performance/price ratio.

What else?


10 Responses to “Tutorial 31: ways to start a new open-access journal”

  1. jeffollerton Says:

    A few years ago we started the free OA Journal of Pollination Ecology:


    If your contact gets in touch with the editor-in-chief, Carolin Mayer, I’m sure she’ll be able to advise.

  2. protohedgehog Says:

    Reblogged this on Green Tea and Velociraptors and commented:
    Do you wanna start a journaaaaal..?

  3. We have started a ‘lightweight scholarly publishing’ project here at the University of Canterbury. We hold the articles in our IR, in a special collection for each ‘journal’, and the editorial board for the journal set up a website on whatever platform they like, and point back to the articles. This means we keep out of ed. board politics, and provide discoverability, archiving and preservation, whatever happens to the front end site.

    Here’s an example: http://ctt.canterbury.ac.nz/

    I’ve managed OJS implementations before, and its no small feat for a library IT team to manage and support. This keeps it really simple. The only drawback so far is offering handles rather than DOIs. There is a concern that we are going past our remit of only holding locally produced material, but I don’t really care, and in practice, no one else does either. The hardest thing was generating an MOU for the editors to sign saying that they were going to be professional in their acceptance of articles. CC-By is mandatory.

    Any library with an IR can do this, and it took about a week to set up the whole system. It works for conferences too!

  4. David Marjanović Says:

    Why start yet another journal? Are there still not enough? I ask particularly because of megajournals that don’t reject manuscripts for being too obscure or for being too many to squeeze into space-limited dead-tree issues.

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hmm, that is a good question, David. I admit that within my own field of vertebrate palaeontology, I don’t feel any need for more journals. But that may well not be the case in other fields. Most notably, there are roughly no megajournals in the humanities and social sciences, so open-access papers need to find a different home. Also, the established science megajournals are slanted towards life sciences, and carry little physics, chemisty or geology — and no maths.

  6. Nima Says:

    More open access journals = more options. It’s true that a huge plethora of options would be confusing and intimidating, but this is always better than being limited to too few. And while I would hope that none of the OA journals currently in existence get bought out by a paywall journal cartel along the lines of what happened to JVP, you never know… and I never assume. Not after what happened to JVP with T&F.

    I viewed the buyout of JVP as a massive betrayal, a selling out of everything it means to be an ethical paleontologist, of everything SVP claims to stand for. At the time, I was honestly this close to ripping up my latest issue of JVP and dumping it in the trash. SVP’s leadership are willing to cry foul about anyone who works on the Dana diplodocids and any other priceless fossils in private hands, but I heard hardly a peep out of the board of trustees when JVP was sold to a paywall publisher without even asking for my vote (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I had voting membership and was never informed.) Instead of screaming bloody murder, they called it “partnership”. So apparently working on private fossils (even if they are legally excavated on private land) is no better than black market fossil-poaching, but “poaching” publicly funded research for personal gain (lets just call it “deep-pocket piracy”) is just fine.

    That is essentially the message SVP’s leadership was sending. Needless to say, I think vertebrate paleontology needs a whole ‘nother trade association, not just more alternative journals.

    If it can happen to SVP’s flagship publication, it can in theory happen to any journal. More alternatives is always better.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Wait — what did I miss? The last I knew, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology was subcontracting the work of publishing JVP to Taylor & Francis, but still very much in control of their journal (and free to take it to a different publisher when the present contract ends). Has something happened since then?

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    I couldn’t find anything about the journal here or here.

  9. Nima Says:

    As far as I know it’s paywalled. And access was a real hassle for me after the “subcontracting” was inked. I honestly wish they hadn’t partnered with people that opposed open access, or at least put it to a vote. When they pull out the rug like that it really raises some red flags about their motives.

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Oh, well JVP has always been paywalled — which I deplore, of course, but it’s not (to my knowledge) been moving in the wrong direction: just not moving.

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