Saturday, February 17, 2007

Scholarly Publishing: High Quality at Low Cost

Advances in computing technology - hardware, software, and connectivity, combined with the age-old tradition of voluntary contributions to scholarship, mean that it is now possible to produce high quality peer reviewed journal articles at low cost.

This is a very different environment from that of a few years ago, when high quality publishing was very difficult without highly specialized equipment and skills.

A research community can now easily start up their own journal, using computers and internet connectivity readily available at their university, or homes. No extra capacity is really needed; with today's computing capacity, a whole series of journals can easily be stored on an average laptop.

Free, open source software is available, such as Open Journal Systems. [Disclosure: I work for SFU Library, one of the partners in the PKP project which produces OJS, but not directly for this project].

If researchers prefer not to do the technical work and hosting themselves, there are quality, low-cost options. For example, SFU Library provides hosting and support at rates ranging from a high of $750 Cdn per year for a single journal to a low of $600 Cdn per journal per year for 10 or more journals. See the Software@SFU Prices from the SFU Library Support Services webpage. The non-profit Scholarly Exchange provides the first year of hosting and support free, with future years at a cost of US $750 per year, and provides a range of additional support services, including arranging for revenue-generating advertising for journals.

Before exploring these options, researchers might want to check with their library, as many libraries are now providing or exploring support for the publishing of their faculty.

Once the hardware and software is set up, the most essential work to ensure quality scholarship is basically free. The articles themselves are free, and scholarly peer-reviewers provide their services on a voluntary basis. Editors, especially for smaller journals, are often volunteers as well.

Publishing software such as OJS automates much of the work of publishing. Authors receive instructions about formatting for their papers before submission, so that papers are in many senses much closer to being ready for publication at the submission stage. OJS keeps track of articles in process, editorial staff, peer reviewers, contact information, and deadline dates. Common messages are automated, and automatically tracked.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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