How to Start an Open Access Journal

Table of Contents


The write-up delves into how to start an open access journal. The guide is handy for academics planning to set up an academic journal or a publisher to expand their journal publishing credentials.

Open-access journals are transforming the landscape of academic publishing. Unlike traditional subscription-based journals, open access journals make research available to all readers online without paywalls or access fees. This has the potential to accelerate scientific discovery and collaboration significantly.

However, starting an open access journal is no small feat. It requires careful planning, dedicated editors and reviewers, sustainable funding models, and an understanding of the publishing process. This guide will walk through everything you need to know to launch an open access journal successfully.

First, we will define what open access journals are and how they promote accessibility in the research community. Then, we will explore why one might want to establish an open access journal in the first place. Finally, we will outline step-by-step instructions for getting a new open access journal off the ground – from crafting the scope to managing peer review to securing financial support through article processing charges or other mechanisms.

Introducing Open Access Journals

Open access journals differ from traditional, subscription-based journals in several ways. First and foremost, open access journals provide free online access to all published research articles immediately upon publication. This contrasts with traditional journals, which often have paywalls restricting access to only subscribing institutions and individuals. Removing these financial barriers helps expand the readership for authors and access to the latest findings for readers worldwide.

The Growing Importance of Open Access

In recent years, open access has grown enormously in importance and impact. Major research funders like the NIH now require that studies they finance be published open access. And evidence suggests OA articles receive more views and citations than paywalled articles. Launching an OA journal gives authors an exciting new venue to publish pioneering work.

Key Steps in the Process

While starting an open access journal is rewarding, it also involves many key steps. These include:

  • Defining the scope and focus
  • Building policies and procedures
  • Assembling an editorial team
  • Selecting manuscript management systems
  • Promoting the journal to attract excellent submissions

We will explore these steps and more in the following sections. Now that we’ve introduced some background on open access journals, let’s dive deeper.

What is an Open Access Journal?

An open access journal is a scholarly publication that makes research freely available to readers online without requiring subscriptions or fees to access content. Unlike traditional subscription-based journals, open-access journals provide free, unrestricted access to peer-reviewed research articles immediately upon publication.

There are several key differences between open access and traditional journals:

  • Open access content is free to access for readers, while traditional journals are typically only accessible through paid subscriptions
  • Open access journals allow authors to retain the copyright of their work through flexible licensing, while authors usually transfer rights to publishers in traditional models
  • Many open access journals fund operations through alternative models like article processing charges paid by authors rather than relying on subscriber fees

Benefits of Open Access Publishing

Open access publishing offers many advantages over the traditional subscription-based model. Some key benefits include:

  • Increased visibility and readership for published research
  • Faster dissemination of findings without access barriers
  • Greater potential research impact and citation rates
  • Enhanced opportunities for collaboration across disciplines and borders

By removing price and permission barriers, open access helps accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and democratize access to knowledge worldwide.

Challenges and Misconceptions

Despite many benefits, open access journals also face challenges and criticism. Some common misconceptions include:

  • The belief that open access equals lower quality – However, most open access journals implement the same rigorous peer review standards as traditional publications.
  • Concerns about long-term viability – Revenue models like article processing charges help offset operating costs and ensure sustainability.
  • Fears of copyright infringement – Open access licenses typically expand rights rather than restrict author control over work.

While challenges exist, the open access movement continues to gain support across academia and address issues limiting access to research.

Why Start an Open-Access Journal?

Starting an open access journal can seem daunting, but its potential benefits make it worthwhile. As this section will explore, open access publishing promotes the accessibility and reach of academic research while addressing systemic inequities.

Promoting Accessibility and Visibility

One of the main appeals of open access is removing barriers to accessing scholarly work. Unlike traditional journals locked behind paywalls, open access journals provide free online access to research.

This increases the visibility and impact of published articles. For instance, studies show that open access papers receive more views and citations on average. Open access facilitates the global spread of ideas and knowledge by removing price barriers.

Democratizing Academic Knowledge

Too often, traditional academic publishing restricts access to discoveries to those with institutional connections and budgets. Open access helps democratize knowledge by making new research available to all readers regardless of affiliation or geography. This supports collaboration and innovation beyond institutional silos. Additionally, wider accessibility empowers educators and students everywhere to integrate cutting-edge findings into their work.

Addressing Systemic Exclusion

Academic publishing has grappled with issues of inequity and exclusion due to high subscription costs. This disproportionately impacts researchers and institutions in low-income countries. The open access model aims explicitly to rectify these injustices.

Removing financial barriers helps researchers worldwide contribute to and benefit from the latest scholarship. This promotes diversity and inclusion within the global scientific community. Overall, the ethos behind open access aligns with the ideals of positive social change through democratizing knowledge. Launching an open access journal enables participation in this exciting mission.

How to Start an Open Access Journal

Starting an open access journal requires careful planning and execution across several vital steps. The first critical task is clearly defining the journal’s scope, aims, and focus.

Consider questions like:

  • What subject area or interdisciplinary field will the journal cover?
  • Who is the target readership?
  • What articles will be published (research, reviews, perspectives, etc.)?

Outlining this information will shape subsequent decisions.

Establish Editorial Policies and Procedures

The editorial board is vital to the journal’s success, so recruitment is crucial. Identify well-respected researchers and practitioners to lend credibility. Define the review process – how many reviewers per manuscript, revision allowances, etc. Craft detailed instructions for authors regarding formatting, ethical requirements, acceptable content, and more. Transparent journal policies set clear expectations.

Select a Publishing Platform

The right platform manages submissions, peer review, production, and indexing. Assess options based on features, customization abilities, and cost. Many universities offer publishing services. User-friendly open-source systems like Open Journal Systems are popular. Commercial options also exist. Ensure the platform facilitates discoverability and accessibility.

Funding Considerations

  1. Article processing charges – Authors pay a fee to publish upon acceptance, offsetting production costs.
  2. Institutional support – Many universities provide resources for faculty-run journals.
  3. Strategic partnerships – Team up with academic societies/associations for financial & promotional backing.
  4. Advertising/sponsorships – Ethical advertising relationships can provide revenue.

Explore a range of funding models to sustain operations long-term. Grants, crowdfunding, and donations may assist initially, but ongoing strategies are ideal.

With meticulous planning and passion, your open access journal can make a meaningful difference in scholarly communication.

Identifying Editorial Board Member

Identifying and appointing editorial board members is critical in establishing a new open access journal. The editorial board plays a pivotal role in setting the journal’s academic standards, guiding its direction, and ensuring the integrity of the peer-review process. Here are steps and considerations for identifying and appointing editorial board members:

Define the Criteria

Determine what expertise, experience, and qualifications are necessary for editorial board members. Consider diversity in geographic location, gender, career stage, and research specialties to comprehensively cover the journal’s scope.

Research Potential Candidates

Look for candidates with a strong publication record, prior editorial experience, and a good reputation in their field. Use academic databases, professional networks, and conference lists to find individuals who meet your criteria.

Assess Commitment and Interest

Ensure that potential board members understand the time commitment and responsibilities involved. They should be committed to the principles of open access and have a genuine interest in contributing to the journal’s development.

Extend Invitations

Personally invite selected candidates to join the editorial board. Provide clear information about the journal’s mission, the role of board members, and the expectations regarding their contribution and term length.


Once accepted, provide new board members with comprehensive onboarding materials. This should include detailed guidelines on editorial processes, ethical standards, and communication protocols.

Continuous Engagement

Keep editorial board members engaged by regularly updating them on journal progress, seeking their input on strategic decisions, and acknowledging their contributions to the journal’s success.

Review and Renewal

Periodically review the composition of the editorial board to ensure it continues to meet the journal’s needs. Allow for the rotation of members to bring in fresh perspectives and maintain high enthusiasm and engagement.

By following these steps, an open access journal can build a strong, diverse, and dedicated editorial board that will contribute significantly to the journal’s credibility, quality, and success.

Identifying and Appointing a Publisher

Identifying and appointing a publisher is essential in starting an open access journal. A publisher provides the infrastructure for managing submissions, peer review, production, and distribution of the journal’s content.

How to start an open access journal

The publisher’s choice can significantly impact the journal’s reach, reputation, and operational efficiency. Here are steps and considerations for identifying and appointing a publisher:

Define Publishing Needs

  • Determine the required services, such as manuscript management, copyediting, typesetting, web hosting, and marketing.
  • Consider whether you need assistance with indexing in databases and obtaining ISSN and DOI numbers.
  • Decide if you want to work with a publisher that can handle article processing charge (APC) transactions.

Research Potential Publishers

  • Explore various publishing options, including university presses, commercial academic publishers, and professional associations that offer publishing services.
  • Investigate open-source platforms like Open Journal Systems (OJS), which provide tools for managing the editorial process and can be self-hosted or managed by a third party.
  • Look into potential publishers’ reputations, costs, and service offerings to ensure they align with the journal’s goals and financial model.

Evaluate Open Access Compliance

Assess Technical Capabilities

  • Review the technical infrastructure of the publisher, including submission systems, online platforms, and digital archiving solutions.
  • Evaluate the user-friendliness of their systems for both authors and reviewers.

Consider Publisher Reputation

  • The publisher’s credibility and track record can affect the journal’s perceived quality.
  • Look at other journals managed by the publisher to gauge their standards and practices.

Understand the Costs

  • Clarify the cost structure and what services are included in any fees.
  • Discuss the possibility of hidden costs or additional charges that may arise.

Negotiate Terms and Agreements

  • Once a suitable publisher is identified, negotiate terms that meet the journal’s needs.
  • Ensure clarity on rights management, revenue sharing (if applicable), and responsibilities of each party.
  • Have legal counsel review any contracts or agreements before signing.

Plan for the Long Term

  • Discuss the publisher’s commitment to the journal’s ongoing development and growth.
  • Establish clear benchmarks and review periods to assess the publisher’s performance and the journal’s progress.

Communicate with Stakeholders

  • Keep the editorial board and potential authors informed about the choice of publisher and the rationale behind it.
  • Transparency in the selection process can help build trust and support for the journal.

Finalize Appointment

  • Once due diligence is completed and terms are agreed upon, finalize the appointment of the publisher.
  • Work closely with the publisher to launch the journal and ensure a smooth transition into regular operations.

By carefully considering these factors and following a structured approach, an academic journal can identify and appoint a publisher that aligns with its open access mission and contributes to its success.


Launching an open access journal is an exciting endeavor that has the potential to benefit scholarly communication greatly. This guide has covered the key steps, from defining your scope and assembling an editorial team to implementing peer review and developing a sustainability model.

Some key takeaways include:

  • Open access publishing helps increase academic research’s reach, visibility, and impact while promoting equity and democratizing knowledge.
  • Carefully considering your subject area focus, editorial policies, operations workflow, and funding streams in the planning stages is crucial.
  • Strategic partnerships, article processing charges, institutional support, and volunteer efforts can help sustain an open access journal over the long term.

For those inspired to move forward, excellent resources exist to help launch your open access journal, such as the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.

The open access landscape represents the future of scholarly communication. We encourage readers to thoughtfully explore their potential roles in advancing these efforts to serve scholarship and society best.

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