Plan S and the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Things have been a little quiet on this side of the Open Journal of Astrophysics but rest assured it has been very busy behind the scenes, with a sizeable batch of papers going through peer review and a number of those are very near the finishing post.

My target was to build up to an average of about one submission a week by the end of 2019, and I think we’re on track to reach that comfortably by the end of summer.

I’ll report more on new publications as they are published, but before that I thought I’d report on a couple of bits of news to do with Plan S, following the issuance last month of revised guidelines.

First, here is a nice summary (taken from this article) of the different ways in principle one could deliver Open Access publishing in a manner consistent with Plan S:

You can click on the image to make it bigger.

The important thing is that the Open Journal of Astrophysics belongs in the column on the far right of the table. I draw your attention to the various comments, especially the one at the end that says the cost of overlay journals is substantially lower. It is, as I explain here.

the authors of this post think it is unclear whether these are compliant with Plan S. That’s a fair comment, but it can be clarified into a definite yes with very few tweaks. It is very encouraging on this point that the CEO of Scholastica (who provide our platform) has written a blog in which he describes the steps being taken to ensure that all Scholastica journals are indeed compliant with Plan S.

Over the coming months, we will announce new functionality that supports complying with Plan S guidelines, and we’re committed to updating our software to meet changes to the Plan S implementation rules as they come out.

I was very happy to read this plan as it includes adding a number of things to the Scholastica system that we currently have to do ourselves (e.g. registering DOIs with CrossRef).

Anyway, another notification from Scholastica has just come in so that will have to be that for now.



9 Responses to “Plan S and the Open Journal of Astrophysics”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    So the People’s Revolutionary Journal of Astrophysics is on the far right? Crazy world…

  2. As my comment in another thread has generated no response, let me re-post it here in slightly modified form:

    Let me play devil’s advocate and explain why the Open Journal of Astrophysics might not get off the ground. Or, more precisely, why it might get off the ground, but nevertheless it (and journals like it) will fail to make a significant dent in traditional journals. 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 exception, 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. All that will be left will be paper copies in libraries, in many respects significantly less comfortable than online versions.

    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. (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.

  3. On another note, you have a .cls file for the journal; what about a BibTeX style file?

    I would also really, really, really, really, really suggest moving from numbered references to author/year references and corresponding citations. If the OJA is worth doing, it is worth doing right. 🙂

    While I agree with Oren Patashnik that numbered references are often better, this is usually the case only when the reader isn’t familiar with them. In such cases, they are essentially footnotes, and the text should be read as if they aren’t there.

    However, suppose I am writing a paper on gravitational-lensing statistics, and I cite Turner, Ostriker & Gott (1984). Most readers will recognize the reference and won’t have to look it up. It also allows for more-natural writing, e.g. “Turner, Ostriker & Gott (1984) have shown” or “earlier work in this field (e.g. Turner, Ostriker & Gott, 1984). It is really bad style to write something like “as shown in refs. [4]–[13]”. (As far as style goes, they should just be there, like footnotes, but then the reader has to look them up just to see what they are, not only when he wants to track down the reference.) Also, if the references are not alphabetical, then it is more difficult to answer the question “does author a cite author b” (no, one should not rely on ADS for this, since the information, despite their best efforts and the fact that bugs are quickly fixed, is not perfect).

    The bibliography style of, say, MNRAS, while not absolutely perfect, is vastly superior here. Vastly. Since the .cls for the journal is heavily based on ApJ, why not base the bibliography style on MNRAS.

  4. […] a blog I posted just a couple of day ago I menntioned that there were a number of papers about to be published by the Open Journal of […]

  5. Jeroen Bosman Says:

    Just a short reaction in thwe scheme of routes to Plan S compliance. The scheme copied is is the old one based on the first iteration of the Plan S implementation guidance. We meanwhile have created an updated one based on the most recent version of the guidance that includes changes based on the consultation:

    • telescoper Says:

      Thanks for that correction. I meant to link to the new version but obviously used the old one instead. I’ve now updated it.

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