Welcome to the Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing

The Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing provides practical information and tools to support the efforts of scholars and other small teams producing independent Open Access journals. The guide has  been developed by Co-Action Publishing and Lund University Libraries Head Office with support from the National Library of Sweden and Nordbib.

Before using this guide, please read this page, which contains important information that will help you get the most out of the guide.

Introduction to the guide

This guide focuses on Open Access scholarly journals publishing. By “Open Access journals” we refer to the publication of peer reviewed scientific manuscripts under the umbrella of a specific journal title.

The Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing is a web-based, living document that allows users to navigate quickly to specific areas of interest. Each chapter contains links to additional resources on the same topic in the form of: other documents and websites, tools and templates that can be adapted for your own use, and examples and best practices from other editorial teams to illustrate how the information can be implemented. Wherever possible, tables, charts, figures and checklists have been used in place of lengthy text.

This is a living document. Users are asked to please submit their own best practices and experiences by using the “Share your best practices” function available at the bottom of each page. Your experiences can bring insight to others! We also request that users bring inoperable links to the attention of the developers by clicking on “Contact” in the menu to the left and filling in the form.

Publishing as a system

Ideally we would like to have written this guide in the form of a list of steps to be taken in a nice sequential order. However, the launching and publishing of a scholarly journal does not fit such a tidy scheme; it involves a number of activities that form a system. Within this system we can identify some clean processes to be followed, but what is more typical is that a number of activities need to be performed in tandem. Moreover, the activities within the system interface with one another, such that the output from one activity can be an input for another, much like the cogs and wheels inside a clock. Large publishing houses are organized into different units that manage the different activities that make up the publishing system, but as a scholar publisher or small team you will be moving back and forth between different activities.

Because the publishing system is complex and can be daunting for small teams, we have written this guide based on the assumption that what is important is to understand what activities need to be carried out, who ought to carry them out and how they relate to other activities within the system. As you read this guide you will notice that we refer back and forth to different sections of the guide.


To capture the full complexity of the system yet allow us to clearly understand how different activities interface within it, we have applied the IDEFØ modeling tool (see e.g. “The IDEF Process Modeling Methodology” by Robert P. Hanrahan, Software Technology Support Center, available at: http://www.stsc.hill.af.mil/crosstalk/1995/06/IDEF.asp). Initially created for use with technical systems and later business re-engineering, this modeling tool has been applied within publishing by Bo Christer Björk who has published several articles listed on his website, The Scientific Communication Life-Cycle model and later by Houghton et al. in a 2009 report for JISC, Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the Costs & Benefits.

At the heart of this model is the identification of the different activities that make up the system, and for each activity, the identification of the inputs, outputs, mechanisms that support the transition of inputs into outputs, and the controls that are placed on this transformation. The model also requires the analyst to map out the interfaces between activities by indicating where outputs become inputs for other activities, etc.

How to use this guide

Few publishers will implement all of the ideas and information contained in this guide.  Because the needs, skills and experiences of those reading this guide will vary, it has not been written as a book to be read necessarily from start to finish (though you may find it useful to do so). You are encouraged to read this introduction first and thereafter to use the navigation tools to jump to those sections of the guide that cover activities (topics) of interest to you.

At all times you will find a menu to the left that leads to each of the five main chapters of the guide: Plan, Set up, Launch, Publish and Manage. Each of these chapters is broken into sections. A box insert can be found at the top of each chapter with a list of the sections that it contains. You can navigate to these sections by clicking in this box, or by scrolling down the page until you reach the information you are interested in. At the top of each section you will find a button that will bring you back to the top of the chapter.


The guide is written to “you” and refers to “your Journal”. In most cases, we assume that you are a Chief Editor who is going to, or who has, launched a journal.  It is most likely that others will be assisting you in editing and publishing your Journal. This guide refers to a number of roles that are typical for a publisher in relationship to the work that is to be carried out. You might choose to take on all these roles yourself, assign each to different individuals, or share the roles amongst the members of your team. How you choose to delegate these roles is up to you.

Chief Editor – the leading editorial position on the Journal, the Chief Editor assumes overarching responsibility for the scientific and editorial quality of the Journal and with it the Editorial Board and editorial team.

Associate Editor – an Associate Editor works with the Chief Editor to manage the editorial content of the Journal.

Editorial Assistant – typically scholar publishers appoint a graduate student or young researcher to provide assistance with the Journal. An Editorial Assistant can take responsibility for handling queries, processing manuscripts through peer review (e.g. the Chief Editor might indicate reviewers, while the Editorial Assistant sends the request to the reviewer and later the manuscript).

Managing Editor – typically a Managing Editor handles the same types of work as an Editorial Assistant, but is often involved in higher level decisions together with the Chief Editor, and might even be involved in the Journal finances or other aspects of administration.

Production Editor – one of the heaviest jobs in publishing a Journal is to manage the production process. This is generally carried out by a Production Editor. You can choose to handle this yourself, but often a young researcher or graduate student with solid IT skills can manage this role.

Copyeditor – a Copyeditor will correct manuscripts for use of correct referencing system, conformity with journal style and layout. Copyediting can also involve different levels of language editing, depending upon what has been decided by the editors.

Layout Editor – the Layout Editor is responsible for structuring the original manuscript, including figures and tables, into an article, activating necessary links and preparing the manuscript in the various formats you will publish it in.

Typesetter – a typesetter is an external partner that can handle layout editing and production of the manuscript in the appropriate formats. Typesetters can also provide copyediting and are often able to provide some distribution to third parties, such as PubMed Central (for medical journals) or another archive.

Technical support person – as the name implies, the role of this individual is to handle all the technical matters related to your Journal, such as setting up websites, setting up domains and URLs, setting up the publishing platform, etc.

Marketer – someone on your team should take responsibility for engaging in outreach to make others aware of your Journal. This might be a role that several or all members of your team share, it could be outsourced, or you might carry it out yourself as the Chief Editor tends to be heavily engaged in content acquisition.

PR Person – on occasion you might wish to issue a press release or to communicate publicly about your Journal.

Financial Officer – should your Journal involve any financial transactions, you will want to designate someone to be a Financial Officer to assume responsibility for collecting revenues and issuing invoices, as well as maintaining accounts and reporting as necessary to the publishing team and any other necessary entities.

Contributors & funding

The Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing was initiated as a joint project by Co-Action Publishing and Lund University Library Head Office. Project members also took part in a Nordic libraries project, Aiding Scientific Journals Towards Open Access Publishing (NOAP).

Funding for the guide was received from the Swedish Royal Library, openaccess.se program and the technical solution was funded by support from the NOAP project, in its turn, funded by Nordbib.

Input to the guide

The information and suggestions contained in this guide are based on the experiences of the authors who are professional publishers and librarians, best practices provided by informants within the Nordic countries, input from the NOAP project and on the numerous existing resources on Open Access journal publishing.

As stated earlier, several guides to open access publishing already exist and have informed this guide. We found the following guides particularly useful and encourage readers to consult them:

Open Society Institute (2003) Model Business Plan: A Supplemental Guide for Open Access Journal Developers & Publishers.

Open Society Institute (2003), Guide to Business Planning for Launching a New Open Access Journal (Edition 2).

Open Society Institute (2003) Guide to Business Planning for Converting a Subscription-based Journal to Open Access (Edition 2).

Public Library of Science (February 2004) Publishing Open-Access Journals. http://www.plos.org/downloads/oa_whitepaper.pdf

David Solomon (2008), Developing Open Access Journals: A Practical Guide. Available through Amazon.com or through Chandos Publishing.

Kevin Stranack (2008) Starting a New Scholarly Journal in Africa .

*Note- Much of the information in this guide is applicable to non-African journals

Over time, it is hoped that users of this guide will contribute with their own best practices. However, some Open Access journal stories have been presented already in David Solomon’s Developing Open Access Journals: A Practical Guide and in several issues of First Monday. You can also find a growing list of other Open Access journals in the Nordic region on the NOAP wiki at: http://www.ub.uit.no/wiki/noap/index.php/Nordic_Journals_using_OJS. Most of these journals are produced by scholar publishers and small teams, often with support from a university library.