The Open Journal of Astrophysics: Update

Just 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 live in January, but we have not yet done so because we haven’t had enough publishable articles. It has taken a bit longer than we expected partly because of the relatively low numbers of papers submitted – presumably because authors are understandably nervous about submitting to a new journal – but also because editors and referees are still learning how to use the system, which has slowed us down a bit. However the submissions we have had have allowed us to test the platform and do a bit of tinkering behind the scenes. We also fixed a bug that caused a problem when the site was viewed using Safari (rather than a proper browser).

I’m always delighted when I see something like this on the daily arXiv listing:


That and several other papers are already in the system but we could do with a few more to join the first batch of half-a-dozen or so we intend to publish soon. For that reason I’m appending below some information I’ve already circulated about the philosophy of the project and the practicalities of how to submit a paper.


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!


9 Responses to “The Open Journal of Astrophysics: Update”

  1. Would a paper which is essentially a long criticism of another paper be appropriate (assuming that it is otherwise acceptable)?

  2. […] Just 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 live in January, but we have not yet done so because we haven't had…  […]

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    Don’t be discouraged by the slow start. This is wonderfully worthwhile (and would be even if that editing service you kindly mention – my own – never sees clients from OJA).

    When an old model begins to be superseded by new ideas, as paper publishing is now being superseded by online, typically a variety of new ways appears, after which one of them gradually cleans up. I hope that the OJA way is that one, and I can see the effort that has gone into creating it, but if the scientific community ultimately prefers a different online model then (a) OJA can be flexible, and (b) what you have done to get the scientific community from under the paper publishers and their huge fees (either for publication or subscription) will remain greatly to your credit.

    Meanwhile, the biological sciences sorely need their own arXiv.

  4. […] per ridurre al massimo i costi e rendere veloce e semplice il meccanismo di pubblicazione. Ad annunciarlo sul suo blog è stato uno dei nomi più autorevoli nel campo della cosmologia, Peter Coles, professore di […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: