The Open Journal is Open for Submissions!

It has taken a lot longer to get to this point than I thought it would when I first proposed the Open Journal of Astrophysics way back in 2012 but better late than never!

For a while now we have been testing the platform with submissions we have solicited quietly for a while now and are satisfied that it works so we can now open up to the general public. The journal itself will go live early in the New Year when we have completed the refereeing process for those papers currently in the pipeline. There will be quite a few further things to announce then too.

Before I give more instructions on how to submit let me briefly recap the philosophy of the Open Journal project.

We no longer need traditional academics journals to disseminate research in astrophysics and cosmology. We all post our research to the arXiv and read other papers there too. It’s been years since I last accessed a paper in a journal.  The only useful function that journals provide is peer review, and we in the research community do that (usually for free) anyway.  We only need journals for peer review, although we also like the prestige that is associated with them. But traditional journals have an unnecessarily slow and expensive editorial process, along with a nasty habit of placing the articles they publish behind a paywall.

The Open Journal does things differently, because we are not a publisher in the traditional sense. Instead, we are a peer-review platform, piggybacking on the arXiv for all the “publishing.” The Open Journal provides peer review for arXiv articles, making the process as fast and easy as we can. Once peer review for a particular article is successfully completed, we mark that article as accepted and send that information to the arXiv. Accepted articles will receive a DOI, and citations to them will get picked up through the CrossRef system just as they would in any other journal — but in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost. In fact, the service is provided free of charge both for authors and readers. There is no Article Processing Charge, no submission fee and no subscription is payable. The Open Journal is a service to the academic community, not a profit-making venture.

Moreover, articles published by the Open Journal are open, in that all articles  are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The infrastructure is open too – the code running the Open Journal is available under an MIT license. The reviewer comments can be made open too, with the agreement of both the authors and reviewer(s).  In the long run I hope  that the community will embrace the spirit of open reviewing so anonymous confidential reviews will become the exception rather than the rule, but we’ll see how that goes just for now.

Any paper that’s suitable for the astro-ph section of the arXiv can be subvmitted to the Open Journal of Astrophysics. We will consider any “traditional” papers as well as others which may find it difficult to get into other journals, such as papers on astrophysics education or outreach or technical papers relating to instrumentation, mission proposals, and other documents.

Now, to business. The best way to get an idea of how the Open Journal works is by watching the following video (which was made using a beta version of the site, but nothing much has changed except for a few layout issues being changed):

Note that the site is currently just called the Open Journal, which is so that it can be used with minimal modification to create similar journals in other fields.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing here’s a quick summary of the steps you have to take to submit to the Open Journal.

  1.  If you don’t have one already, get an ORCID ID!
  2. Write your paper. There is latex style file you can use here, although it is not compulsory to use this and we will allow anything that produces a PDF that can be viewed easily using our mark-up tool. Single-column is strongly preferred.
  3. Submit your paper to the arXiv. You have to be registered in order to do this. Note also that you have to be prepared to submit your paper to the arXiv before it is reviewed. There is an enormous advantage in doing this, actually, as you may get more comments and suggestions than our refereeing system will generate.
  4. Log on to the Open Journal website
  5. Go to the submit tab on the left hand side of the screen.
  6. Type in the arXiv reference of your paper (you can do this in various ways)
  7. Our software will assign the paper to an editor, who will then select referee(s). Each referee makes comments by marking “issues” on the PDF, each of which needs a reply from the author. When all issues are resolved the paper is accepted. If revision is required a new version can be submitted to the arXiv which will be picked up by the software.
  8. When it us ready our software will automatically assign a DOI and write it to the appropriate field in the arXiv.
  9. That’s it! The paper is published and can be accessed either directly on the arXiv or through the Open Journal website.
  10. Go and have a beer.

One other thing is worth mentioning. Because this service is provided free we do not have the effort required to undertake extensive copy-editing or rewriting of papers that are very poorly written. If the editor or referee deems a paper to be unfit for review then we will refer the author to a professional writing and editing service who will charge a fee depending on the length and complexity of the task.

As well as submissions we are also looking for new editors. At the moment our Editorial Board is dominated by cosmologists but as word gets round we will probably need expertise in other areas of astrophysics. If you’d like to volunteer please send me an email or use the comment box below.

Well, that’s about it. I just remains for me to thank all the people without whom this project would never have got off the ground, chiefly Chris Lintott, Arfon Smith and Adam Becker, developers Stuart Lynn and Marc Rohloff, and of course the good folk of the wonderful arXiv!


25 Responses to “The Open Journal is Open for Submissions!”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    “It has taken a lot longer to get to this point than I thought it would”

    Hofstadter’s law: It always takes longer than you thought it would, even when you take Hofstadter’s law into account. 🙂

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Hearty Congratulations Peter! This is a deeply worthwhile project and once a few papers have been accepted the journal can be flagged to politicians who support the present costly and outdated mode of publishing. Now the biological sciences need their own arXiv, to follow suit.

    Disclosure. I run the editing service to which Peter refers above. I nevertheless support this type of venture unconditionally.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      I don’t see any contradiction between supporting the journal and charging for editing. Quite the opposite: if the journal doesn’t do copy-editing, it needs to be done elsewhere (assuming that it is needed at all).

      I guess we will have to live with the fact that the journal will probably lack a “house style”. 😐

      I would, though, require submissions to use your own LaTeX template. Is there any reason not to require this? Anyone using LaTeX at all, even if he is not the administrator and has no special privileges, can download the CLASS file into the directory where his document is and use it.

      • “I would, though, require submissions to use your own LaTeX template. Is there any reason not to require this?”

        Actually, there might be a good reason not to use the OJA class file, at least for some people. Since presumably you don’t require “submitted to the Open Journal of Astrophysics” in the arXiv abstract nor on the paper itself, one could submit a “neutral” version to arXiv then, after acceptance, replace it with a version formatted in the arXiv style. Presumably most papers will have at least a few changes required for acceptance and/or pointed out by readers, so one would put up a new version anyway. If the paper is then not accepted by OJA, for whatever reason (which might not necessarily be due to lack of quality), it could be submitted elsewhere without the “rejected by OJA” stamp (though some journals might require the author to say if the paper has been submitted anywhere else).

        But it would reflect badly on both the author and the journal if LaTeX markup for other journals were used.

  3. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Presumably it’s OK to use another editing service?

    • Of course

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        My editing service does not require users to acknowledge the fact in their papers, and – to be clear – I support OJA-type ventures whether or not I make a cent out of it. This is the future and a better one it is too.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        A side-effect might be slightly more business. Nothing wrong with that. 🙂

  4. I would be happy to review papers on statistical methodologies for astronomy / cosmology etc.!

  5. Adrian Burd Says:

    Congratulations on a great endeavor. May it go viral to other disciplines (hmmmm… I have the time?)

  6. Congratulations!

    One of the advantages of the traditional journals is that they afford some prestige to papers that manage to get published. Nature papers still look good on a resume. Is there a way to rank papers on release? Perhaps 10 papers per month are chosen as “Editor’s Choice”?

    • Would that really be a good idea? Nature papers are not particularly good, it’s just that the journal is difficult to publish in, but this is not because they publish only the best papers, but rather the most interesting ones, which often turn out to be wrong. Another reason people like to publish there is the impact factor, but this is due mainly to a few papers getting many citations; the average Nature paper is not cited that much. (The whole idea of impact factor is questionable, and certainly worse than just counting the citations a paper has (which itself is rather dubious as a measure of quality); it’s like believing that if I spend time with taller people I will become taller myself.)

      Good papers will presumably be cited because they are good, at least I hope so. Why do we need some Editor’s Choice?

      Ideally, refereeing should do the following: make sure that there are no obvious mistakes, make sure that the results are clearly presented and that the paper is not too long, make sure that any result which is claimed to be new actually is, raise a flag if the language of the paper is not good enough. The height the journal sets for these bars determine the quality of papers published. I think they shouldn’t be artificially high: why publish only the top 10 per cent if the top 80 per cent are actually interesting? But the bars should be high enough so that the signal-to-noise ratio is high enough.

      Of course, bloggers can and should point out interesting papers.

  7. Reblogged this on Disturbing the Universe and commented:
    New open journal for astrophysics is open!

  8. Congratulations on the launch of this new venture!

  9. Do you have plans to extend this beyond astrophysics? Or advice to others who do have such plans? I suppose the platform and concept not be used for any field that heavily uses the ArXiv. What sort of work would it take to set up such an extension?

  10. Will the journal accept “living” documents? E.g., if I wanted to publish a comprehensive description and characterisation of some analysis software, could the document be updated as the software gets extended? The arXiv version is obviously easy to update, so does the Open Journal number travel with the arXiv update, or would a new review be necessary?

    • At the very least, the journal should distinguish between living and non-living (not “dead”) documents.

      I think that the journal should point to the version on arXiv which was accepted. If this is updated with, say, more up-to-date references, or correction of typos which the referees didn’t notice, or whatever, this would be in the arXiv abstract. I don’t consider this to make the document living, though.

      I think most papers should be non-living. There should be a definitive edition, with future “printings” just updating minor stuff like that mentioned above.

      In some sense, living documents might make sense. However, there needs to be some way to see what was written when, without disrupting the flow of the document.

      It also needs to be difficult to revise a living document to make it look like the author knew more than he did when he wrote the original version.

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  12. Great! How much did it cost to set up the website, what are its maintenance costs and how are they covered?

  13. Visiting today, it seems I can’t log in, whereas I could in the past. Anything wrong? As such, I’m not sure if there is anything there, but surely one should see papers even if not logged in.

    Maybe just before Christmas wasn’t the best time for the launch. Maybe when people return from watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre some papers will be submitted. 🙂

  14. […] Coles ehdotti toimeen tarttumista kesällä 2012. Coles on OJA:n päätoimittaja, ja hän kertoo blogissaan lehden käytännöistä. Blogissa on myös toimituspäällikkö Adam Beckerin havainnollistava […]

  15. […] It is argue (by some) that younger researchers should be discouraged from publishing in, e.g., the Open Journal of Astrophysics, because it doesn’t have an impact factor and they would therefore be jeopardising their […]

  16. […] a quick post to update you all on the Open Journal of Astrophysics project. The journal was opened to submissions just before Christmas 2015 and we’ve been putting papers through our editorial processes since then. We did plan to go […]

  17. […] also in future I’ll be able to persuade my co-authors to submt to the Open Journal of Astrophysics! Follow […]

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