Over the last few months, I have been working hard on a fresh project to set up an interdisciplinary academic journal on the 19th Century. There is still a long way to go before Volume 1 of Romance, Revolution and Reform (RRR) is published, but the experience has taught me a lot about how journals actually work behind the scenes. Below I offer some tips for anyone else who wants to go about setting up a journal:
1) Why would someone publish with you?
This is a vital question that has to be answered before you try to set up a journal. Think of it like a business proposition: What is your ‘USP’? Why would someone start publishing their work with you rather than one of the ‘well established journals? What competition is there already out there, and how will you compete with them for your target audience? If you can’t provide good answers to these questions, then you need to alter you approach.
2) How are you going to get your journal ‘out there’?
There is a common misconception that a printed journal has more respectability. This couldn’t be more wrong. Although some people are a little bit stuffy in their attitude to journals that are purely online, this is actually the direction that almost every journal is heading. Even those journals which have been running as printed paper journals for years are starting to create pdfs of their articles. This is a great way to keep your costs down, and also makes it so much easier for people to access your journal. Also make sure that you have links with social media, and keep the momentum going behind the journal by updating your followers about progress that is being made towards your next publication
Even if you go for the online format, which is much cheaper, there is still going to be the issue of cost. Hiring a domain on the internet can be fairly cheap, but you will also need the option of editing and maintaining digital storage online. All of this costs money. At RRR we used a free website editor which gave us a fresh image, and was therefore visually different from a lot of other online journals which all use much the same template, and therefore look pretty similar. This is another way to keep the costs down, although you need to be careful that in the end product of your webpage doesn’t look dated. The most important thing is that whatever you do, your price everything carefully and shop around for the best deals. Also see if you can get sponsors from any society in the field of your research.
4) Access Policy
This is probably the single most important thing to think about. There are traditionally 3 kinds of access online:
Green – articles are available for free after a few months
Gold – you pay to view articles
Hybrid – a mid-point, often where journal may allow an article to be viewed after a set period of time, or where the author can pay to make the article free to view
Which option you choose may depend on the rules set out by your sponsors, but as a rule, academic institutions in the UK support the principle of ‘Open Access’ (ie being able to access work for free). This is not only a ‘nice idea’ (everyone gets to share their knowledge, free of charge, and therefore ensures that no-one is at a disadvantage), but also ties in with an initiative called ‘Ref 2021’. This is a review of universities across the UK, which will assess how well their colleagues are doing at furthering Open Access. As a result, UK universities are pushing their staff to support and publish in the most ‘open’ journals. If you want to attract academics to your journal, you therefore want to think carefully about your access policy.
The one other things that is worth pointing out here, though, is that there is a fourth way. RRR have adopted an innovative approach to Open Access, developing an ‘Instantaneous Open Access Policy’. This means that all material published in the journal will be immediately available, free of charge, via the journals website. No fees. No fuss. No delays.
5) Other things to consider
There are a whole host of other things to consider, but there isn’t the space here to explain them all. I’ve listed the other important elements to setting up a journal, for you to keep them in mind. If you want any advice, or have any questions, get in touch by leaving a post in the Forum.
Ø Copyright Policy – including what to do if someone published something in your journal which is in breach of copyright
Ø Editorial Board – who is going to be on your editorial board, and how will you select them?
Ø Frequency – how often are you going to publish fresh volumes of the journal?
Ø Roles and responsibilities – a strong administrative framework will save you loads of work in the long run
Ø Don’t go it alone – speak to people who have set up journals themselves (they may be able to offer advice), and make sure that you have the backing of some academics who you can turn to when you are unsure about what comes next.
Ø Whatever you do, do it well – don’t rush something through because you want to ‘get on with it’. A quality product that takes 18 months to produce is much more valuable than 3 really bad editions of a journal which becomes a laughing stock.