Open Journal Updates

Just finished today’s teaching so I thought I’d chill for a few minutes and pass on a few quick updates about the Open Journal of Astrophysics, which was formally (re)launched last week.

The first thing is that at the weekend I sent an online training video and guide around the members of the Editorial Board and introduced them all to the new platform’s messaging system, which is a very convenient way for us to keep in touch. I had lots of volunteers for the Editorial Board and I couldn’t select everyone but I tried to choose members with a good geographical distribution, spread of expertise, and gender balance. We may add more in due course, as we’re still quite cosmologist-heavy, but I think we have enough to get started: we have editors in Australia, France, Italy, United States of America and Mexico as well as the United Kingdom.

We have received some submissions already and are dealing with them through the new platform, which is requiring the Editors to engage in some `on-the-job’ training. Hopefully they’ll get the hang of it soon!

Another relevant piece of news is that we have updated the DOIs associated with the papers we published with the old platform to point to the new site so they are now fully incorporated. For the record these are:

10.21105/astro.1708.00605

10.21105/astro.1603.07299

10.21105/astro.1602.02113

10.21105/astro.1502.04020

I’ll also take this opportunity to remind you that the Open Journal of Astrophysics is open for new submissions, so please feel free to give it a try!

Finally, I’d like to point you to an article about Open Access Publishing in the latest Physics Today, which begins

Publishers of scientific journals are facing renewed threats to their business models from both sides of the Atlantic.

You better believe it!

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6 Responses to “Open Journal Updates”

  1. “Finally, I’d like to point you to an article about Open Access Publishing in the latest Physics Today”

    The article has much to say about the EU Plan S. This pushes for OA, but addresses only the problem of making the results of publicly funded research generally available, not the problem of paying the journals too much money.

    The interesting question is whether there will still be a market for journals which a) are not outrageously expensive and b) allow posting the final version of the paper on arXiv, but do take in money (via subscription or bulk payments from, say, a learned society; some have page charges but I am happy to see those disappear, as they place a burden on authors (directly or indirectly) and create false incentives for the journals) and do have paid staff.

  2. One last time: a plea for an alternate submission mechanism for the OJA. There are several reasons this could be necessary:

    Institutional policy: Some institutes have a policy against putting stuff on arXiv before acceptance.

    Personal preference: Some people want to wait until they are sure that there are no big goofs before going public. This is probably not an issue for most people who have knowledgeable colleagues next door who can read the paper before submission, or even work somewhere where there is a formal process of internal refereeing, but might be an issue for others. (Nevertheless, there are reputable folks at prestigious institutes who also have this preference. Maybe some will comment here.)

    Defending against plagiarism: Someone can read the first draft on arXiv, steal the ideas, and, with sufficient resources, get something accepted by a journal before the plagiarized author can revise his version enough so that it gets accepted. Again, perhaps less of an issue for those in comfortable positions, but those, dare I say it, less privileged, are at a real disadvantage here.
    (Yes, plagiarism does happen. Yes, even in astrophysics. Yes, even known perpetrators go on to have careers, so it is “worth it”, apparently.)

    Lack of access to arXiv: Not anyone can post on arXiv, much less to their chosen category. Again, not a problem for established scientists (unless they have gone bonkers and want to post crackpot stuff, for which they are rightly barred), but could be a problem for those less privileged. There is an endorser mechanism, but a) endorsement is a necessary, but not sufficient, criterion for such people and b) for some people it might be difficult to find an endorser. At the very least, the members of the editorial board should offer to consider to be endorsers for those who need it (i.e. read the paper and, if suitable, become an endorser).

    If there is an alternate submission mechanism, then of course there must be an agreement with arXiv that any paper accepted by OJA automatically qualifies to be posted on arXiv.

    Probably less than 5 per cent of submissions would go via the alternate mechanism. So it is not much additional work, and the benefit is that the OJA is truly open to all. The main disadvantage is that there is no filtering via arXiv, so presumably some unsuitable papers will be submitted as well. But other journals can deal with this (some, perhaps most, journals allow submission by anyone), so why can’t the OJA?

    If an alternate submission mechanism is set up, and there is a problem with too many unsuitable papers being submitted, then I will volunteer to filter them, i.e. see if they are acceptable for submission (not refereeing them, but rather the sort of filtering which the arXiv moderators do), send a rejection message saying why it is unsuitable (accept in cases of spam, repeat offenders, etc), and pass them on to the editors of the OJA (via email, by a link to the PDF file visible only to the OJA editors, or some other scheme).

    • If OJA is concerned with too many unfiltered submissions, perhaps the alternate submission mechanism could have a fast track for those who have already put something on arXiv and have the corresponding arXiv ID.

  3. I recently had a look at various journals which are more or less respected in the fields of cosmology/GR/astrophysics/astronomy and checked their policies regarding charges to authors, how they are funded, what their policies are regarding open access (and also whether they support BibTeX, allow author-defined LaTeX macros, etc). Best was MNRAS, worst—based on my personal criteria (of the ones I considered) were the IOP journals, PRD was reasonably good, and Springer journals (e.g. General Relativity and Gravitation were reasonably good.

    I am having second thoughts about Springer though, based on a journal under the Springer Nature umbrella which appears to publish junk papers. Even if the flagship journals are more or less OK, I don’t wish to be associated with a publisher who is responsible for such drivel. Springer is a big publisher of textbooks, conference proceedings, and journals in the field of cosmology/GR/astrophysics/astronomy. The OJA has not (yet?) taken over.

    I suggest that everyone who has had any connection with Springer (probably many readers here, at least the (former) professional astronomers) write to Springer (good luck on finding the appropriate (email) address and getting a response from a real person who actually understands the complaint), and say that they will withdraw future business from Springer unless this paper is retracted and a public hang-head-in-shame statement is issued.

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