Open access was by no means a new concept when the “Academic Spring” of April 2012 was kicked off by a blog post. PLoS, a forerunner in open access publishing, was established in 2000 (PLoS Biology began publishing in 2003), and other journals were catching up with open access offerings of their own. It nevertheless was a watershed moment, as it spurred a number of institutions and organizations to address both open access as a concept as well as the practical issues surrounding it.
Personally, I was inspired to develop the Digital Research Video Project, part of the Social Media Knowledge Exchange at the University of Cambridge. The Digital Research Video Project published a series of animated shorts based on research by early career researchers under a CC-BY-NC-SA license, making the work open access and accessible. This in turn led to joining Twitter where I “met” Victoria Herridge of the Natural History Museum, London, and reconnected with Matthew Law, of Bath Spa University. We entered a discussion that quickly blossomed into an idea and a series of emails. About a year later, the three of us, all co-editors, signed a contract with Ubiquity Press and launched a call for papers for the new journal Open Quaternary.
Getting Open Quaternary started is still an ongoing process as we solicit submissions to our journal. We hope to share our experiences and perspectives on current research on this blog, so I thought I would outline the process behind getting the journal started.
Starting an Open Access Journal in Five (Easy) Steps
- Is there a gap in open access publishing in the area or your research?
Tori, Matt, and I all felt that there was a lack of options for affordable open-access publishing in the Quaternary sciences. Extant journals in the area and in our respective subfields often had open access options, but the article processing charges (APCs) were very high, especially for early career researchers such as ourselves.
- What are the aims & scope of the journal?
Quaternary science is an inclusive and interdisciplinary research area. You can’t understand the past without reaching out to researchers in other disciplines, so we opted for breadth. We expect contributions from researchers in physical geography, archaeology, anthropology, earth sciences, biology and climatology, addressing research questions in these areas with relevance to paleoecology and past environments and including human dimensions of change. One of our central aims was to provide an affordable open access option for publishing research in these areas.
- What will the journal offer than existing journals in the field cannot or do not?
This can also be called market potential. We pointed out in our proposal that the main publication venues for Quaternary research were either paywalled journals with no open access options, or very expensive ones (APCs of approximately $3,000 per article). We are unique in publishing data papers and accompanying datasets as well as engagement papers evaluating projects or themes in public engagement related to the Quaternary sciences.
4. Who will serve as editors and on the editorial board? What will the editorial and review process look like?
As we discussed the details of the journal, it became clear that in order to see our vision realized we would need to serve as its editors, combining our respective years of experience. It was important to us to assemble an editorial board comprised of both senior and junior academics with a number of countries represented (though we admit it has a US/UK bias). After initial screening by an editor, the paper enters double-blind peer review, which we felt would be instrumental in eliminating biased reviews, unintentional or deliberate.
- What are the nitty-gritty details (publication frequency, article types, and journal name)?
These details were settled once we found a publisher to work with. Throughout the proposal crafting process – which between our academic and personal schedules took a several months – we sought out a number potential publishers. In one case, a major publisher contacted us. After receiving feedback on our proposal from two publishers, we decided to go with Ubiquity Press, which is run out of University College London. We chose them for several reasons, not least their reasonably low APC ($500 and the ability to waive fees) as well as their company ethos-they were founded open access and have a transparent funding process. The APC of $500 is almost half of the average ($906) cited by Solomon and Björk (2012) for open access journals.
It might be said that the hard work is now just beginning. After setting up a website and mailing list for our fledgling journal, we are accepting submissions and looking forward to publishing our first papers in the upcoming months. To keep the discussion and momentum going as the journal gets off the ground we have also invited our editors to contribute posts to this blog across a range of topics to highlight the breadth and expertise of our editorial team. We hope you enjoy keeping up with the journal content as well as our posts over here on Open Quaternary Discussions!
-Suzanne Pilaar Birch, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Open Quaternary @suzie_birch