The Open Journal for Astrophysics – Update and Request

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about my modest proposal The Open Journal for Astrophysics. I don’t want to give too much away before the site is revealed, but I can say that after a very positive meeting in London last week the project is right on track and will go live pretty soon for beta testing. We have an Editorial Board (names to be revealed in due course), a very nice website, a web team, and an excellent interface for editors and reviewers which, in my opinion, is far better than any offered by a “professional” journal. When the site does go live I’ll explain in more detail how it works and introduce all the people whose contributions enabled this project to get off the ground.

We are going to test everything extensively before the OJFA goes public, however, so please be patient. We will be testing the site initially using papers in a relatively restricted area of astrophysics (largely extragalactic astrophysics and cosmology), but hope to expand by the addition of other members to the Editorial Board. In anticipation of this future expansion, volunteers in areas of astrophysics outside this specialism are welcome!

That’s the update. Now time for the request. Although not essential for the initial testing phase of the project, we do think that it would benefit from a distinctive layout for the papers, which would be easily achieved by having our own Latex style. This came up in discussion some time ago when I first floated the idea of this project and somebody emailed me offering to design an appropriate Latex package. Unfortunately, however, in transit from Cardiff to here I appear to have lost the email and can’t remember who sent it. I’m therefore going to enlist the help of the blogosphere to remedy this act of incompetence. Is there anybody out there among the interwebs who is sufficiently keen and has the necessary expertise to construct a latex style for our new journal? If so please contact me, either through the comments or via email. I can’t do it myself because I have never had any sense of style…

Please pass this on via Twitter, etc.

27 Responses to “The Open Journal for Astrophysics – Update and Request”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    May all go well with this project. Is the title final?

  2. I definitely think the journal should have its own LaTeX style. Make sure that it works fine with BibTeX and NatBib as well.

    What I would really like to see, not just for this journal, is some sort of standardization of “front matter” for journal articles. (I tried to start a discussion about this on the innertubes back before there was a blogosphere.) In other words, there should be standard macros for stuff such as \author, \institute, \email, \supportacknowledgement (some want it on the front page and not in the acknowledgements at the end), \submitted, \accepted etc. The style file should then format them appropriately. Many journals (ab)use a mix of the default LaTeX stuff for these fields, if they exist, and use formatting which is way to low-level for the others.

    Perhaps this journal can Do This Right and encourage other journals to follow the same style by using the same macros.

    I still think a good name should be found. Does anyone have anything better than Cosmology, Astrophysics and Astronomy? (Whatever name is chosen, one should be sure that there is no existing journal using the same name.)

  3. I’m particularly interested in the mysterious world/s of dark energy and dark matte r butt I’m an
    amateur hardly beyond A level physics

    @tetenterre may be more knowledgeablej

  4. …can i suggest you DON’T emulate the structured A&A style of abstracts (guidelines for those who need such things – but shouldn’t)?

    or for that matter the increasingly rigid MN rules about 200-word abstract lengths (fine that they shouldn’t be a page long – but a good abstract usually means you can work out if you really need to read the paper or not).

  5. It would be great if the journal used a straight-to-pdf typesetter (pdflatex, or better xetex) so that .pdf or .png format figures could be used in papers.

    Generally journals explicitly demand postscript figures, but the (e)ps format is getting archaic really fast (for example the incapability of using transparency in plots, and poor handling of raster graphics, common in astronomy). Often these shortcomings result in poor plots, where an alternative format would make all the difference. Of course, I appreciate people will still want to use eps, and that’s fine.

    XeTeX is great because it is almost exactly the same as LaTeX, but gives fuller access to modern font libraries, which allow for really professional-looking results (

    • telescoper Says:

      We’ll be using only leading-edge technology: figures must be drawn in Indian ink on tracing paper.

      • Monica Grady Says:

        Will you allow the use of letteraset transfers for lettering of axes? I have many sheets left over from production of my thesis diagrams. I also still have the tracing paper and Indian ink…..

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        What about the text? My suggestion is Schwabacher, handwritten by the authors.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Schwabacher is dangerously modern. How about uncial?

    • “It would be great if the journal used a straight-to-pdf typesetter (pdflatex, or better xetex) so that .pdf or .png format figures could be used in papers.”

      But pdftex can’t include PostScript figures, right? So people will convert their PostScript figures to PDF in order to include them? Doesn’t sound like the proper approach to me.

      Yes, I like PostScript figures, since I can edit them by hand.

      But isn’t all this moot? The idea is that arXiv is the backend, so while the Journal might have its own style files etc, the processing will be done on arXiv.

      • As I said, I understand that the postscript format is deeply embedded in the psyche of the astronomical community, and so it’s sensible to keep this for those that still want it. But this shouldn’t prevent the rest of us from moving forward – often the limitations of postscript result in poor plots.

        The very fact that you can edit a postscript file by hand is an indication of its unsuitability… the only time I’ve ever done this if I made a typo in a label and didn’t want to re-run the code. As for bounding boxes…

        Anyway I’m just saying that there should be an *option* to use pdf or png as well as postscript (i.e. offer an option to use a template that can be compiled in pdflatex)… arXiv only demands that the source files be compiled on its system if it thinks they have been produced by *TeX.

  6. If you lack someone from the far-flung reaches of nuclear (astro)physics for things like nuclear input to compact stars and nucleosynthesis, then I would happily for the editorial board on the basis of dealing with that sort of thing

  7. John Peacock Says:

    Peter: can I enter a plea that you also have journal macros in plain TeX? Thankfully, it’s still possible to submit to MNRAS without having to suffer the bloated syntax, ugly results, lack of portability, and general difficulty of adjustment that are the characteristic features of LaTeX. It would be nice if the open journal was not a backwards step in this regard.

  8. Peter, whilst agreeing with John Peacock in principle, I would suggest that you contact the Tex User Group ( and, if the funds are available, hire someone with both design experience and TeX/LaTeX programming experience. I have found that there are few scientists adept at both, with the former talent being quite rare amongst scientists in general.

    I would argue that it shouldn’t matter whether TeX or LaTeX (or one of their more modern variants such as XeTeX, Context, LuaTex etc.) is used as long as both the code design and design of the page is done well.

  9. Bryn Jones Says:

    Just go ahead with LaTeX and EPS figures initially.

    The other things (TeX, PDF figures etc.) should be added later when the journal is up and running, within the first year or two.

    The journal needs, as people have commented, to be fully integrated with the Arxiv. However, it needs also to be fully integrated with the ADS. I would advise therefore that the needs of the ADS are considered from the start (including providing the ADS with page images in whatever format it uses (GIF?) to match what it produces by scanning pages of old printed journals).

  10. […] I’ve been getting quite a few questions about my modest proposal The Open Journal for Astrophysics. I don’t want to give too much away before the site is revealed, but I can say that after a very positive meeting in London last …  […]

  11. If you want it “Open”, please consider PDF files and other open formats.

  12. Would your Journal consider my Paper?
    “A Multidimensional Geometric Expansion of Spacetime”?

    No Dark Energy and No Dark Matter is required.

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