“We can change the scholarly publishing world, but it’s up to you.” This is the contention of Martin Paul Eve, doctoral researcher in the department of English at the University of Sussex, Great Britain. My hat tip goes to Martin Eve for posting an excellent five-part guide for starting an open access journal on his blog. He designed the guide “for [humanities] academics who want to establish their own journals that are:
- Peer reviewed, in a traditional pre-review model
- Open Access and free in monetary terms for authors and readers
- Preserved, safe and archived in the event of catastrophe or fold
- Reputable: run by consensus of leaders in a field”
The guide covers, in more or less checklist fashion, the budgetary, technical and social groundwork essential to get an open access journal off on the right foot. Financial costs are fairly modest (e.g., pointing folks to the free open source Open Journal Systems platform from the Open Knowledge Project), though it assumes access to server hosting and a certain level of web-savvy technical support. Martin is encouraging in suggesting that with a little persistence, working through the technical details should not prove too daunting—even for humanities scholars.
Although the technical details are important, Martin places particular stress on the social aspects of building a strong support team (editorial board, peer reviewers, copy editors, proofreaders). He writes:
Academic journals work on a system of academic capital; you need respected individuals who are willing to sit on your board, even if they are only lending their name and you end up doing most of the legwork. It should only be a matter of time before academics realise that journal brand isn’t (or shouldn’t be) affiliated to publishers, but rather to the academics who choose to endow a journal with their support. Get good people who are respected within your discipline(s) and you’re on the right track.
This comment particularly impressed me as a facet of my own belief that scholars can move prestige to open access if they choose because prestige originates and fundamentally resides with scholars.
I caught-up with Martin Eve via email to ask him how he got involved with open access.
I actually first heard of open access several years ago when I setup the tech and structure of the postgraduate journal, Excursions. From there I read more and realised that I fundamentally disagreed with the way in which academic publishing works, particularly when I was seeing colleagues being laid off at universities in order to feed corporate profit machines. After Excursions, I wanted to show what OA could do for my own field and, as the extant journal of my area was slowing its publication rate rapidly, I pitched the idea last year. It had a great response, which is surprising for the humanities. But I had to learn a great deal more about digital preservation, DOIs and typesetting, hence the purpose of this guide.
The new journal Martin referred to is called Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon (ISSN: 2047-2870), which is dedicated to scholarly work pertaining to the writings of contemporary American novelist Thomas Pynchon and adjacent fields. Martin also co-edits another open access journal called Alluvium (ISSN: 2050-1560), and he is a contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian, where he writes on open access and higher education issues.