Open Journals Forum event report

Posted on August 5, 2013 | in Library | by



We were very pleased that the OJS Forum was so popular. The event was fully booked and we were delighted to welcome 50 delegates from around the UK to the Main Library to hear presentations from practitioners with a depth of experience – from Publications Managers through Systems Administrators to Journal Editors.

Our invited speakers included: Vanessa Gabler from Pittsburgh University,  Jackie Proven & Gillian Duncan from St Andrews University, Brian Hole from Ubiquity Press, Franziska Moser from Universität Zürich, Adam Rusbridge from Edina and Kevin Ashley and Alex Ball from the Digital Curation Centre, plus speakers from the University of Edinburgh.

All of the presentations are available for download from the Edinburgh Research Archive.

Some of the key themes that the speakers of the Forum touched upon were:

1. Resources
2. Learning curves
3. Managing expectations
4. Quality control
5. Licensing
6. System configuration
7. Positive student engagement

1. Resources

Although the OJS software is open source, the time and effort required to set up and support a service are difficult to quantify. Pittsburgh University currently have 3.05 FTE working on their service, whilst the University of Edinburgh estimate it be in the region of 0.5 FTE (although it’s probably more once you factor in time spent from everyone involved). All involved in current hosting services agreed that it was a valuable service for the library to provide to students and academics who want an affordable alternative to traditional commercial publishing.

2. Learning curves

Everyone who uses OJS spoke about the steep learning curve for staff and students in learning how to use OJS. And how it’s just as much a learning curve for library staff who learn as the encounter new challenges and requests form students. However, the common experience was that, although there was a large commitment to training and support at the start of the process, after a short while journal publishers become self sufficient and require minimum  ongoing support.

3. Managing expectations

For all institutions with journal services managing expectations was crucial. It is essential at the start of the process to make it clear what the service will provide and what it will not. Some questions to ask are:

* If a service provided FREE of charge what does that include/exclude?

* Is it merely system support?

 *Will there be training & ongoing support for design/layout/copyright?

*What conditions will the service impose- use of standards, licenses, policies?

 *Are editors prepared to manage submissions & peer review process?

The institutions providing a service have a range of processes and documentation in place– not only does this help manage customer expectations but it standardise the services and makes it far easier to manage.

4. Quality control

To what level does the service provider become involved in the quality of the journal? It may be useful to set up a publishing advisory board accepts new journals for publication and the service assesses the peer review process of each journal. Quality shouldn’t be compromised just because a journal is Open Access.

5. Licensing

All of the OJS services publishing and hosting open access journals recommended using a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. Many people found the standar Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC-BY-NC)  license too restrictive as it effectively prohibits licencing content to EBSCO and ProQuest or other commercial aggregators.

Furthermore, in the UK the CC-BY format  is appealing as many funders of research – for example the Wellcome Trust and RCUK-  require this flavour of license as part of their Open Access policy.

6. System configuration

Changes to underlying code and heavy customisation are to be avoided – out the box OJS is not particularly pretty but it can be improved using CSS and good design.  The question of one installation versus multiple installations was discussed – depending on the number of titles there are benfits to each approach.

7. Positive student engagement

Many of the speakers talked about the process of setting up and/or editing journals as being a  positive way to engage with young career academics and make them aware of peer review processes, copyright and open access at the early stages of their career. Gillian Duncan, from St Andrews University and Editor of the Journal of Terrorism Research mentioned the benefits for all parties of having PhD students as guest-editors for special editions.

If you want to find out more about the Journal Hosting Service please contact

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