Image Credit: Pexels
Image Credit: Pexels

If you’re working on a new open access (OA) academic journal, one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your publication is seek the advice of editors who’ve developed thriving OA journals. Considering the advice of other editors can help you generate ideas for your journal and avoid common pitfalls.

At Scholastica, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with many editors and learn from their collective knowledge. We aim to share editor insights via our resources and here on the blog. When it comes to publishing OA journals, there are some tenets of successful OA publishing that all editors new to OA journal management can benefit from. Here are a few of the top pieces of advice we’ve heard from 4 seasoned editors.

Find a journal niche and hone your messaging

The basis of a successful OA journal is filling a need in the research marketplace. Some ways to do this include providing an open outlet for research typically found in paywalled journals, creating a home for research within an underrepresented area in your field, or developing a unique publication model. Both Jesper Sørensen, editor-in-chief of Sociological Science, and Amy Vilz, founding editor of The Reading Room A Journal of Special Collections say filling a particular need in your field is paramount to the growth and endurance of your journal.

In a past OA Week interview, Vilz shared how The Reading Room came about and the niche it fills. “We believe academic libraries are currently, and for the foreseeable future, focusing on the resources that make them unique: namely, their special collections. Given this environment, we have a large, identified community of readers, authors, and peer-reviewers.”

Prior to the launch of The Reading Room, Vilz said that there wasn’t an easy way for librarians to publish articles on special collections in a timely manner. “Traditionally, a special collections librarian would present research findings or a case study at regional and national conferences before the results were published in a journal, with many times a year or more lapsing between project completion and dissemination via publication,” explained Vilz. “We wanted to offer an open-access peer-reviewed journal, to hopefully be a bit more accessible and publish articles quickly to increase responsiveness to challenges and successes in our field.”

The Reading Room has been able to successfully fill a niche in its field. Similarly, Sociological Science was initiated to fulfill a specific need - to get sociological studies to publication sooner. In a field where articles often take months or even years to be published, Sociological Science has achieved a 30-day turnaround time due to its unique editorial model.

As you identify the primary differentiating factors of your OA journal, Sørensen recommends focusing on crafting your messaging, beginning with the journal’s aims and scope and permeating throughout all of your communication channels. “There has to be clarity about what is distinctive about the journal relative to somebody else,” said Sørensen. “The key thing is to focus on making the journal position a compelling story for people to want to send their papers to.”

Know that there is more than one OA publishing model

Your journal’s publication model is another area where you will need to find your particular place in the market. There are many ways to fund and publish OA journals and it’s important that your team consider all of the options available rather than defaulting to what may seem popular. Not all models will work equally in all disciplines. For example, some scholars have more limited access to article processing charge (APC) funding than others. If your journal is in a field with limited APC funds, while that model may work well for other journals, you’ll need to recognize the issues within your space and opt for a more conducive funding model.

Dan Morgan, digital science publisher at University of California Press (UCP), spoke to the importance of being open to new publishing models in a Scholastica interview about the Collabra journals program at UCP, which he helped develop. “We must remember that OA is an outcome for a research object, and not a business model (and therefore can be supported by any appropriate model).”

Morgan said part of finding the right funding model for your journal is looking beyond traditional publishing practices and embracing new methods of publishing online with time and cost saving technology. By using a combination of online publishing services, Morgan said UCP has been able to keep down Collabra journal costs. “I see a real opportunity for a radical lowering of versioning, typesetting, formatting, and hosting costs,” said Morgan.

Focus on the needs of modern readers

As you figure out your journal publishing model, be sure to keep the needs of today’s researchers in mind. Many OA journals make the mistake of failing to give their journal a modern web presence, which can negatively impact the discoverability and reach of articles.

In order to create a modern publication website, it’s important to first leave the mindset of traditional print journal production behind. Know that researchers won’t be able to “flip” through the pages of your journal, so organizing everything from the issue level via tables of contents won’t make for a convenient online browsing experience. Rather you’ll need to focus on making articles easily searchable and categorized on your website.

Anthony Bonato, editor-in-chief of Internet Mathematics stresses that journals must start to think more from the article rather than issue level when structuring online content. “What I’ve said repeatedly […] is that what researchers want is access to papers,” said Bonato. “They ultimately care mostly about the electronic file. I think people enjoy having an easy-to-navigate website for a journal: simply click here and access a paper.”

Bonato and his team chose to publish Internet Mathematics with Scholastica Open Access Publishing in order to ensure the journal has a modern web presence. “Scholastica feels very 21st century,” said Bonato. “[Our website] is easy to navigate: you just click on the papers and there they are.”

Another need that Scholastica Open Access Publishing fulfills for Internet Mathematics that Bonato believes all journals should be focused on is mobile-friendly web design. “It’s impossible to ignore the fact that people are spending a lot of time on their smartphones,” said Bonato. “What Internet Mathematics has now, which wasn’t easily possible before, is the ability to view the website from a mobile phone.”

Putting an emphasis on modern design when planning your publication website will not only improve its utility, but also make for a more professionalized looking publication, which is so important for new journals. It’s vital that your outward publication presence makes researchers feel confident about reading and submitting papers to your journal.

Do you have any additional recommendations for OA journals or a publishing question you’d like help with? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter at @scholasticahq!

OA Starter Kit