The Open Journal for Astrophysics is Open for Test Submissions!

Just a quick announcement that we’re stepping up the testing phase of the Open Journal for Astrophysics and would really appreciate it if astrophysicists and cosmologists out there would help us out by submitting papers for us to run through our swish new refereeing system.

Just to remind you The Open Journal for Astrophysics is completely free both for submission and for access; there are no Author Processing Charges and no subscription payments. All papers will be fully peer-reviewed using a system which is, as far as I’m concerned, far better than any professional astrophysical journal currently offers. All this is provided free by members of the astrophysics community as a service to the astrophysics community.

I know that many will be nervous about submitting the results of their research to such a new venture, but I hope there will be plenty among you who agree with me that the only way we can rid ourselves of the enormous and unnecessary financial burdens placed on us by the academic publishing industry is by proving that we can do the job better by ourselves without their intervention.

The project has changed a little since I suggest the idea last year, but the submission procedure is basically that which I originally envisaged. All you have to do is submit your paper to the arXiv and let us know its reference when this has been accomplished. Our software will then pick up the arXiv posting automatically and put it into our refereeing pipeline.

In future we will have our own latex template to produce a distinctive style for papers, but this is not needed for the testing phase so feel free to use any latex style you wish for your submission.

For the time being the OJFA website and associated repositories are not publicly available, but that’s just so we can test it thoroughly before it goes fully live, probably early in the new year; at that point all the papers passing peer review during the test phase will be published. I’m really excited about the forthcoming launch which will, I hope, generate quite a lot of publicity about the whole issue of open access publishing.

If anyone has any questions about this please feel free to ask via the comments box. Also please pass this on via twitter, etc. The more, and the more varied, papers we get to handle over the next couple of months the quicker we can get on with the revolution! So what are you waiting for? Let’s have your papers!

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55 Responses to “The Open Journal for Astrophysics is Open for Test Submissions!”

  1. I work in a field where papers are posted to ArXiv once they are accepted. Will there be a way to submit papers without putting them publicly on ArXiv?

    • telescoper Says:

      There will, but it’s not available at this point…

      My personal opinion is that it’s better to put papers on the arXiv as soon as they’re ready for submission – that way you can get more suggestions for improvements than just the referee. I’ve had a lot of helpful comments on papers submitted to the arXiv this way.

      • That’s true, although it does provide an incentive to rush analysis of (often public) data so you can post on ArXiv first.

      • Another point is that some institutes do not allow papers to appear as a preprint before acceptance. A revolution has to take place one step at a time 🙂 and you can’t expect people to publish in your new journal and challenge their institute’s policies on such matters at the same time.

  2. You do realize that the arxiv rejects some papers, and that these rejections can be fairly arbitrary and capricious?

    I know from direct experience that these rejections are not just to keep out spammers and the like, and do not think you should use arxiv as a prefilter for an open, peer-reviewed, journal (at least, not without offering an alternate path).

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    What happens if a paper posted to the Arxiv is subsequently rejected by the OJFA? It will still live on the Arxiv presumably.

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    Congratulations Peter. I wish this project every success.

    Why do you say your peer review is better than that of “professional astrophysical journals”? The OJA system has some very great advantages but I did not think this was one of them.

    • telescoper Says:

      What I meant was that the system for doing the peer review is much slicker that what referees have to put up with for other journals…

  5. Jonathan Thornburg Says:

    Hmm. A colleague and I are currently writing a paper describing some results of a project that we’ve been working on for 3 or 4 years. But I would need need considerably more information about OJfA before I would consider submitting to it, notably a public website containing information like:
    * a reasonable indication of what sort of papers the journal considers appropriate — just saying “astrophysics” is way too vague (e.g., I can’t tell if the median hep-* preprint discussing an astrophysical system would be appropriate? Nor can I tell about gr-qc or physics-*. Indeed, I can’t tell if my current paper would be considered “astrophysics” or not.)
    * more generally, the journal needs author guidelines
    covering such things as what manuscript lengths are considered appropriate
    * what are the journal’s policies regarding access to data which supports a paper?
    * a statement of editorial practices and procedures
    (covering such things as what happens when referees disagree, what appeal mechanisms there are, what mechanisms there might be for authors to request that $bitter_professional_rival NOT be involved in the refereeing process, etc)

    I think these and similar issues need to be fleshed out
    (and posed on the journal’s public website) *before* authors can reasonably be expected to submit preprints.

    • telescoper Says:

      If you would submit it to astro-ph on the arXiv then it will be considered.

      I think I made it clear that this is for testing the review systems. If you’re uncomfortable with that then feel free not to submit anything. All the information you request will be available on the site when it goes public.

      • “If you would submit it to astro-ph on the arXiv then it will be considered.”

        That’s a good rule of thumb, but note that one reason for the new numbering system on arXiv is to allow for reclassification without changing the eprint number.

        To add some context to Jonathan’s comment, Jonathan works in GR. Some cosmologists see GR as part of cosmology, and some relativists see cosmology as an application of GR. And both groups are right. There are many papers by people from the GR community which are extremely relevant to cosmology or astrophysics which appear in the Physical Review (usually D or Letters). It would be nice if the new journal could cater to these types. However, I think that including all of GR would be too broad, so I agree that the scope needs to be spelled out more clearly.

    • As a layperson (retired professor of medicine) I was amused with this post. On the one hand there is a criticism about vagueness; on the other the poster describes research ongoing for 3 or 4 years. So, was it 3 or 4 or 3.67?

  6. Cristiano Sabiu Says:

    Once the paper is submitted to the Arxiv, how do we let you know? Email, web-form, ….?

  7. I had a question about the subjects covered by this journal. You mention astrophysicists and cosmologists. Are planetary astronomy papers (ie. Kuiper belt size distribution analysis, exoplanet population statistics and discoveries, asteroid observations, etc) also included as topics to be published in this journal? Is there an editor who is experienced in that or a related field that can select appropriate referees and assess referee reports?

    • I am also interested in submitting astronomy education papers to this journal, particularly since Astronomy Education Review was shut down.

      • My first reaction would be to say that this should be outside the remit of the journal. However, since it is online-only, one doesn’t have to worry about it becoming too large, containing too many specialized papers etc.

        I envisage a list of links to arXiv. This list should be organized by topic. In other words, like in A&A and not like in MNRAS.

  8. I know that many will be nervous about submitting the results of their research to such a new venture

    Quick and easy solution: Make sure some well respected scientists submit their papers there. I don’t think it is unreasonable to require that all editors, members of the editorial board etc submit their own papers there. Otherwise, they look like the manager who doesn’t own stock in his own company.

    • telescoper Says:

      Indeed. We’ve done precisely what you suggest for the first phase of testing, but we need more papers faster than the Editors can supply them!

      • Does “test phase” mean that these are real papers which will appear in the journal in the future? Or are they just dummy papers? If the latter, of course, then the editors should be able to generate enough (even automatically), though I assume this is not the case since it would be an abuse of arXiv (I don’t think arXiv has a sandbox area). If the former, then people will need to see the real papers first before submitting their own real papers. Of course, they could submit dummy papers, which might be more interesting than the editors submitting them since additional bugs in the process might come to light, but again this would abuse arXiv. I don’t think it is clear from what you have written above whether real or dummy papers should be submitted during this test phase.

        And if the journal is not yet public, how can a test-phase paper (real or dummy) be submitted?

  9. “All you have to do is submit your paper to the arXiv and let us know its reference when this has been accomplished.”

    There is a small but non-zero population of scientists who are not allowed to submit to arXiv and yet are not crackpots. There are some (not all!) journals which will accept submissions from anyone. It is trivial to reject crackpot submissions before sending them to a referee. So, such people can and do publish in top-notch refereed journals. Such people will not be able to submit to your journal, since they cannot submit to arXiv.

    One solution would be for you to provide an arXiv endorsement for anyone wishing to submit to your journal, but this is not satisfactory, for two reasons. First, probably most people who are not allowed to submit to arXiv are crackpots, and you don’t want to tarnish your own reputation by endorsing crackpots (which would rightfully lead to the revocation of your right to endorse). Second, arXiv routinely puts on hold submissions they themselves deem questionable even from people who have an endorsement. One such criterion for being questionable is lack of institutional affiliation. When this happens, it is not possible to obtain information from arXiv about the reasons for the paper being on hold. Also, but related, inn contrast to other fields, it is not public knowledge who the moderators of arXiv for astrophysics are.

    I suggest that you have an alternate submission route for people who are not allowed to submit to arXiv. Again, obviously crackpot submissions can be rejected within a few seconds, so the extra load on the staff is negligible. (I will even volunteer to do this.) If such a paper is accepted by your journal, then it should be posted to the arXiv and you should provide the necessary endorsement. At the very least, you should have an agreement with arXiv that any paper accepted by your journal will automatically be allowed on arXiv (without giving the author a general endorsement).

    (Note: I am not talking about myself.)

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Anyone volunteering to do that will face a problem. Either you don’t give reasons for rejecting papers, which seems unfair; or you do give reasons, which will tie you up in many hours of crazy correspondence with cranks. OK, you might say that your decision is final and you will not enter into further correspondence after giving your reasons, but (1) even one letter per crank is going to be quite time-consuming, and (2) it takes an iron will not to get drawn into further correspondence.

      But I do agree with the issue you raise, as I doubt that I would get onto arXiv, given my ex-academic status nowadays, without a ‘sponsor’.

      • “Either you don’t give reasons for rejecting papers, which seems unfair; or you do give reasons, which will tie you up in many hours of crazy correspondence with cranks.”

        I think this is a false dichotomy. One can send off a boilerplate rejection letter in the case of obviously crackpot submissions. As a moderator of the newsgroup sci.physics.research, I do this quite often (few times per week). One cannot expect a point-by-point refutation of a crackpot paper. Yes, the crackpot might rail on about “the establishment” and being persecuted just like Galileo, etc, but there is nothing we can do about that.

        What does put water on the mills of the crackpots is if a journal refuses to even look at a submission.

        I’m sure that traditional journals a) receive their share of crackpot submissions and b) don’t waste much time rejecting them.

        To be on the safe side, perhaps there should be some appeal mechanism at the editorial level—i.e. get another editor to look at it—(as there perhaps should be at the referee level—i.e. get another referee to look at it, with the decision in this case taken by the editor-in-chief). It can happen that there are honest mistakes, especially if the process is semi-automated and/or electronic.

        Apparently someone has taken the time to compose a rather complete list of crackpots, though they are not called by that name here: http://astrojan.hostei.com/droa.htm though I do note that John Maddox is on the list (not sure if that is a false positive).

      • Please note that having a sponsor is not sufficient to avoid rejection by arXiv.

      • “Please note that having a sponsor is not sufficient to avoid rejection by arXiv.”

        Nor should it be.

        As I said: “Second, arXiv routinely puts on hold submissions they themselves deem questionable even from people who have an endorsement. ”

        Since arXiv does have its own (rather non-transparent) rejection system, using it as the only possible front-end for a journal seems to be a non-starter, unless the journal assumes that any paper rejected by arXiv would be unacceptable to the journal, which is probably an invalid assumption, at least in some cases.

      • “Apparently someone has taken the time to compose a rather complete list of crackpots, though they are not called by that name here: http://astrojan.hostei.com/droa.htm though I do note that John Maddox is on the list (not sure if that is a false positive).”

        Here’s another interesting list: the Encyclopedia of American Loons.

      • Philip Gibbs Says:

        I am listed on http://astrojan.hostei.com/droa.htm for an article I wrote in the Physics FAQ debunking various types of claim about FTL travel. Do not take these lists seriously

      • “I am listed on http://astrojan.hostei.com/droa.htm for an article I wrote in the Physics FAQ debunking various types of claim about FTL travel.”

        Surprised to see your name there. Could be a false positive; most seem to be real crackpots. The information on the web page doesn’t say much and the link to the PDF is dead.

      • Philip Gibbs Says:

        The quote held against me is from http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SpeedOfLight/FTL.html . This must have been quoted or misquoted in the article they link to which is by someone else. They probably did not check the original source to see what it was about but just added me to their collection on that basis. This is a typical acion of anti-crackpots and you are best adviced to make your own judgements rather than relying on someone’s list. I dread to think that such a list would be used as a blacklist by any kind of archive or journal.

      • Philip Gibbs Says:

        I just had a quick look through the book version of that “dissident scientist” list and found Abbey Ashtekar, John Baez, Steve Carlip, Brian Greene, Sheldon Glashow etc. and I only looked through a small fraction of it

  10. For this test phase do you want test papers (I.e. Papers that would not oth wise be submitted to journals) or real papers? If the former, what should define them, and if the latter, how will they be recognized or hosted after they have been accepted?

    • telescoper Says:

      Real papers, please! If and when accepted papers will be published on the OJFA website, with full DOI details etc so their citations etc can be tracked.

      • OK, that clears some things up. Still, I think you can expect many more submissions after the site has gone live. I realize that this is a bit chicken-and-egg, but many papers are written by people without permanent jobs and, like it or not, publication of enough papers in reputable journals is very important to them. Before it is clear who are the authors of the journal’s papers, there will be some hesitation.

        Perhaps you can just mention here a list of authors and titles of accepted papers, even before the site goes live.

        Another point: I think it is a good idea to have your own LaTeX macros, but when you have something ready to go, let the community test them out and provide feedback before coming up with a “final” version of said macros.

  11. ArXiv’s ~1Meg size limit for figure files is going to be a problem for image heavy data papers if you want to have decent quality. The Hubble XDF, for example, cannot be rendered in 1Meg.

    • You can upload low-res image to arXiv and include a link to a hi-res version; that’s what most folk do with big data sets. This would be a good test for the system, actually…

      • The default size limit for astro-ph is 15MB (total, uncompressed) and these days arXiv is rather flexible with size limits. The automatic size limits serve as a reminder to think about efficiency and accessibility but most exception requests are reasonable and quickly granted.

      • Here is one area where you can perhaps do better than arXiv: arXiv has some fields like DOI which can be updated as necessary. However, the “additional information at this HTTP URL” cannot be updated without replacing the paper (perhaps adding a note that the sole reason for the replacement was to update the URL). Since DOIs never change, and external URLs do, it would make sense to be able to update the URLs mentioned in the abstract. Perhaps, in addition to the link to the paper on arXiv, you can have links to information related to the paper and make it possible that the author can update these as needed.

      • Won’t a referee need to see images in full quality? I can recall some of the HDF images on arXiv being distinctly muddy.

      • Why not include a link to the high-res version in the appropriate field on the arXiv submission?

      • The arXiv rubric seems to discourage that.

      • It is common to write “additional information available at xxx” in the abstract field on arXiv, where xxx is a URL. This gets converted to “this HTTP URL”. So, I don’t see why you say that arXiv discourages this.

        However, as I mentioned above, in contrast to the DOI or PUBLISHED fields, this URL cannot be updated without replacing the paper.

  12. Jonathan Thornburg Says:

    Have you considered joining the PLoS family of open-access journals, e.g., becoming “PLoS Astrophysics”?
    This would automatically give you editorial practices, an online manuscript submission submission and editorial system, a publishing platform, and (last but very definitely not least) a lot of credibility.

    • From the corresponding Wikipedia page (my emphasis):

      As with all journals of the Public Library of Science, PLOS ONE is financed by charging authors a publication fee. The “author-pays” model allows PLOS journals to provide all articles to everybody for free (i.e., open access) immediately after publication. As of July 2010, PLOS ONE charged authors US$1,350 to publish an article. It will waive the fee for authors who do not have sufficient funds. This model has drawn criticism, however. In 2011 Richard Poynder posited that journals such as PLoS ONE that charge authors for publication rather than charging users for access may produce a conflict of interest that reduces peer review standards (accept more articles, earn more revenue).

      I’m sure Peter thinks that this fee is way too high.

  13. As noted, the author fee is waived for authors who do not have sufficient funds. The process for requesting such a waiver is not odious (just check a box on the web form).

    The PLoS editorial staff are NOT informed of the author’s fee payment or lack thereof, so this has no influence on editorial processing of the article.

    It would be interesting to know what fraction of {submitted,published} manuscripts have fee waivers, but I don’t know those statistics.

    Disclosure: $spouse is an (unpaid) academic editor for PLoS One (in a non-physical-sciences subject area).

    • “The process for requesting such a waiver is not odious”

      I’m glad to hear it, but perhaps you meant “onerous”?

      Anyway, we’ll be waiving all fees for everyone.

  14. “As noted, the author fee is waived for authors who do not have sufficient funds. The process for requesting such a waiver is not odious (just check a box on the web form).”

    “It would be interesting to know what fraction of {submitted,published} manuscripts have fee waivers, but I don’t know those statistics.”

    Indeed. The important quantity is the mean fee per article.

    What would happen if someone who obviously has the funds ticks the waiver box on the web form?

  15. @telescoper:
    Oops. You’re right: s/odious/onerous/

    @Phillip:
    > What would happen if someone who obviously has the
    > funds ticks the waiver box on the web form?
    S/he would not pay the fee. So far as I know, there is no
    verification of whether or not the author “has the funds”:
    it is purely an “hono[u]r system”.

  16. [In the main blog entry] @telescoper wrote:
    > All papers will be fully peer-reviewed using a system
    > which is, as far as I’m concerned, far better than any
    > professional astrophysical journal currently offers. All
    > this is provided free by members of the astrophysics
    > community as a service to the astrophysics community.

    Can you provide any more details about how this will
    work? Basically, I’m wondering how the editorial process
    will work — who will assign referees to manuscripts, who
    will vet referees for conflicts-of-interest, who will handle
    author appeals of referee rejections, and (perhaps the trickiest cases of all) who will handle cases where referee #1 says “great paper — approve” and referee #2 says “horribly-flawed paper — reject”?

  17. […] anything for a while about the Open Journal for Astrophysics. For a start I have to admit that the call for test submissions last year was a bit premature. I should have been more patient and ensured that the system was […]

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