New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!

It’s nice to be able to announce that the Open Journal of Astrophysics has just published another paper. Here it is!

It’s by Pauline Barmby of the University of Western Ontario. You can find the accepted version on the arXiv here.

I think this paper is a good demonstration of the broad remit of the Open Journal of Astrophysics: our only rule is that if it’s suitable for the astro-ph section of the arXiv then we will consider if for publication. Rather than being a hardcore research paper, this is comprehensive and pedagogical review of observational techniques, instrumentation and data analysis in astronomy for use by researchers and educators in other disciplines, which we feel is a very useful addition to the literature

My thanks to the Editor and referees for dealing with this one so efficiently! We even have a Twitter testimonial from the author:

We have more publications in the pipeline but would be more than happy to receive more…!
I hope soon to get to the point where we have so many papers I can’t write a blog post about every one!

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7 Responses to “New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!”

  1. “I think this paper is a good demonstration of the broad remit of the Open Journal of Astrophysics: our only rule is that if it’s suitable for the astro-ph section of the arXiv then we will consider if for publication.”

    Good idea.

  2. It looks like some biologists are as enraged about overpriced journals as some astronomers are: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/05/14/the-publisher-springer-tries-to-stiff-me/

  3. Let me play devil’s advocate and explain why the Open Journal of Astrophysics might not get off the ground. Feel free to discuss your ideas to get around these articles in another post, or as reply to my comments here.

    Chicken-and-egg problem. This can be solved, but only in one way: really famous researchers have to publish in the OJA: not just a token paper, but most or all of their work.

    A much more serious problem is that not everything is on arXiv and for the stuff which is, the definitive version is not always there (sometimes this is prohibited by journals) or if it is, it is not always obvious. The whole idea of the OJA is to replace traditional journals. There is still a lot of stuff which is neither at arXiv (and even if it is, perhaps not the version one needs; see above) nor at ADS nor freely available from the journal. If the journals are forced out of business, what motivation would they have to make their archives publicly available? Note that many or most journals require the author to transfer copyright. (MNRAS is a notable example, where copyright is retained by the author, and A&A has copyright transferred to ESO, which is a non-profit organization.) Even if the author retains a non-exclusive right to distribute copies, there is no practical way that this could be done for all papers.

    I think that some of the hesitation regarding the OJA stems from the fear that if it succeeds, then we will stand to lose a huge amount of literature.

    No serious person would be sad to see the will-publish-any-bullshit-for-pay journals disappear. (They are often called “predatory journals”, as if they prey on innocent victims, but I don’t think that that is the case. They exist only because people pay to get stuff published there. They either know what is going on, and are happy to accept the benefits accrued from paying to publish there, or don’t realize that these are not serious journals, and are hence ipso facto massively unqualified as serious researchers from start. I don’t think that any good, honest scientists are vicitms.)

    Then there are publishers which have some really, really good journals, but also many bad ones (some in the category above). As such, one can question their dedication to good science, but has to admit that at least some of their stuff is worth reading.

    There are some journals which are fine. They might be published by publishers who also publish dodgy stuff, but in these cases the publishing is outsourced and someone else (learned society, for example) is responsible, as opposed to journals essentially owned and operated by publishers.

    In the categories above, while there are few if any which are open in the sense that the OJA is, some are severely overpriced, some are expensive but not that bad, and some have more-or-less nominal fees. These fees can be page charges or subscription charges or both.

    The best of the lot are journals which have no page charges or article-processing fees and which allow the author to retain copyright and to put the final version on arXiv. (Again, MNRAS is a good example.)

    Another aspect is that it is considered to be prestigious to be on the board of a journal. Since there isn’t room on the board of the OJA for all board members of other journals, if these journals go, then the prestige of some of the board members does as well. With this in mind, why not set up some sister journals to the OJA, rather obviously aimed at attracted papers which would otherwise be submitted to other journals? One could be about the history of astronomy, one about foundational aspects of physics, one for philosophy, discussion of other papers, and so on, one for papers which are good but really don’t fit anywhere else, and so on.

  4. Let me play devil’s advocate and explain why the Open Journal of Astrophysics might not get off the ground. Feel free to discuss your ideas to get around these articles in another post, or as reply to my comments here.

    Chicken-and-egg problem. This can be solved, but only in one way: really famous researchers have to publish in the OJA: not just a token paper, but most or all of their work.

    A much more serious problem is that not everything is on arXiv and for the stuff which is, the definitive version is not always there (sometimes this is prohibited by journals) or if it is, it is not always obvious. The whole idea of the OJA is to replace traditional journals. There is still a lot of stuff which is neither at arXiv (and even if it is, perhaps not the version one needs; see above) nor at ADS nor freely available from the journal. If the journals are forced out of business, what motivation would they have to make their archives publicly available? Note that many or most journals require the author to transfer copyright. (MNRAS is a notable example, where copyright is retained by the author, and A&A has copyright transferred to ESO, which is a non-profit organization.) Even if the author retains a non-exclusive right to distribute copies, there is no practical way that this could be done for all papers.

    I think that some of the hesitation regarding the OJA stems from the fear that if it succeeds, then we will stand to lose a huge amount of literature.

    No serious person would be sad to see the will-publish-any-bullshit-for-pay journals disappear. (They are often called “predatory journals”, as if they prey on innocent victims, but I don’t think that that is the case. They exist only because people pay to get stuff published there. They either know what is going on, and are happy to accept the benefits accrued from paying to publish there, or don’t realize that these are not serious journals, and are hence ipso facto massively unqualified as serious researchers from start. I don’t think that any good, honest scientists are vicitms.)

    Then there are publishers which have some really, really good journals, but also many bad ones (some in the category above). As such, one can question their dedication to good science, but has to admit that at least some of their stuff is worth reading.

    There are some journals which are fine. They might be published by publishers who also publish dodgy stuff, but in these cases the publishing is outsourced and someone else (learned society, for example) is responsible, as opposed to journals essentially owned and operated by publishers.

    In the categories above, while there are few if any which are open in the sense that the OJA is, some are severely overpriced, some are expensive but not that bad, and some have more-or-less nominal fees. These fees can be page charges or subscription charges or both.

    The best of the lot are journals which have no page charges or article-processing fees and which allow the author to retain copyright and to put the final version on arXiv. (Again, MNRAS is a good example.)

    Another aspect is that it is considered to be prestigious to be on the board of a journal. Since there isn’t room on the board of the OJA for all board members of other journals, if these journals go, then the prestige of some of the board members does as well. With this in mind, why not set up some sister journals to the OJA, rather obviously aimed at attracted papers which would otherwise be submitted to other journals? One could be about the history of astronomy, one about foundational aspects of physics, one for philosophy, discussion of other papers, and so on, one for papers which are good but really don’t fit anywhere else, and so on.

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