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Planning a new open-access journal

To be successful, a new open-access journal must be carefully planned. Before you can get into daily publishing practice, many decisions have to be made. We suggest you ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to them is “Yes” you are ready to proceed.

Do I really want to start a new journal?

Be sure that your aims and motivations to start your journal are sound. Creating a new journal should be regarded a commitment with long-term responsibilities.

Is there any demand for my journal?

You should ask yourself if there really is a need for a new journal in your field. Try to find a thematic niche in which you can provide unique content that distinguishes your journal from others. If there is already a similar journal in existence, you may want to consider joining it rather than creating your own.

Are there sufficient personal resources for maintaining the journal?

Editing and reviewing submissions is a time-consuming task. Depending on the number of manuscripts published, the workload may exceed the capacities of a single person. Consider recruiting the support of a co-editor. If you are planning to offer multilingual content, be sure to involve respective native speakers in the copyediting process.

Are there sufficient financial resources available?

PsychOpen is offering you all its services for free. Nevertheless, launching and maintaining your publication will not be completely cost-free. You will need staff, equipment, technical help, etc. Securing resources, be they financial or nonmaterial, is one of the most difficult aspects of operating a journal.

To address resource and financing issues, try to anticipate the expected costs as precisely as possible and inform yourself on possibilities to generate funding for your journal. Widely practiced models are funding by learned societies (e.g., in form of financial aid to start new projects) or donations. The PsychOpen model does not permit the collection of author fees or sale of advertising space.
Volunteer efforts (i.e. individuals donating their time for editorial or technical support) can be an invaluable factor to reduce costs. Saving time through work efficiency is another. In order to meet your needs, the PsychOpen team has streamlined the editorial process by employing the article-processing system Open Journal Systems (OJS).

Decisions to make for your new journal

What will be the scope of my journal?

Try to define the scope of your project as clearly and unambiguously as possible. A clear focus should be recognizable, especially if the journal has a broad scope – as it might be the case with interdisciplinary projects. Formulate the description of the scope in a concise and easily comprehensible manner, as it will help authors in making a decision when selecting an appropriate journal for submission.

Which name shall I choose for my journal?

The name of your journal should be easily recognizable and clearly communicate the scope, focus, and purpose of your project. Do not use a name which already exists in this or a similar form to avoid copyright infringement and confusion with other journals.

What content shall my journal include?

Determine the types of content that will be published in your journal (articles, book reviews, editorials, etc.). Moreover, you should define the range of formats allowed for submissions (HTML, PDF, XML, LaTeX, etc.). Be sure that your readers (and also your reviewers) have the necessary software to access the documents. To balance costs with benefits the submission of materials requiring an above-average editing effort should only be allowed if there is a significant additional value for your readers.

How will the journal staff be organized?

To make the workflow as smooth as possible, the organizational structure of the journal staff and each person’s particular role in it should be clearly defined. We recommend you to form an editorial board that can provide you with support and advice (for example by managing the peer review process or developing the journal’s policy). Maintaining an editorial board is generally considered as a hallmark of professionalism. The reputation of the editorial board members can significantly boost the attractiveness of your newly established journal, positively impacting the amount and quality of submissions.

What layout is appropriate for my journal?

Try to establish a “corporate identity” that gives your journal a unique appearance and helps distinguish it from other publications. Adopt a specific style guide to secure a consistent layout throughout all issues and volumes.

What shall be the frequency of my journal?

While traditional print journals publish at regular intervals, the electronic nature of open-access journals offers more flexibility. You can either maintain the traditional practice of bundling articles into issues or, alternatively, publish article by article as soon as a manuscript becomes ready for publication.

What review procedure suits my journal?

Consider what type of review procedure is most appropriate for your journal (double-blind, single-blind, or open review).

In addition to the general review method you should also determine more detailed aspects of the reviewing procedure such as the number of reviewers for each manuscript or the number of required review rounds. For the sake of transparency, you should document the workflow of the whole review procedure and make it available on the journal’s Webpage.

Before your journal comes on stream, you should have recruited a reasonable pool of reviewers. OJS can be a valuable resource in reviewer management as it provides an option to create and maintain a reviewer list with information on each referee (contact data, number of reviews, timeliness, quality of work, etc.). It also offers you assigning and contact options.

What polices shall I define for my journal?

Policies regulate the interaction between editors, authors, reviewers, readers, and other persons involved in a journal. They are important to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings – e.g., by outlining the editorial decision making process, the protection of humans and animals in research, or terms of use. Furthermore, policies help to save time by providing clear guidance on formal aspects such as the reviewing procedure, general criteria for articles, or manuscript preparation. All policies should be documented in written form. Especially review policies should be as detailed as possible to keep quality control transparent for all persons involved. Responsibilities of editors, reviewers, and authors publishing with PsychOpen concerning publication ethics and publication malpractice are described in PsychOpen's Guidelines on Publication Ethics.

Running a new open-access journal

After you have made all important decisions, the time has come to pass on to everyday editorial business. Your general task as an editor comprises the administration and coordination of the work to be done.

Handling submissions

As an editor, you have the full responsibility to accept or reject a submission. You should only opt for an initial rejection of a paper if you have sound reasons to do so, i.e., the manuscript is basically flawed (questionable methodology, biased content, missing focus, etc.) or beyond the journal’s scope. If this is not the case, forward the submission to one or more assigned reviewers. Maintain confidentiality concerning the submitted contents and research results.

Managing the review procedure

Peer review is an indispensable method to ensure the quality of academic submissions. As it provides a competent and fair assessment of a submission, it eases your editorial decision-making regarding the acceptance or rejection of a manuscript. To initiate the review procedure, carefully choose at least 2-6 competent people to review the submission. Always invite more reviewers than you actually need to secure a “critical mass”. In case one or more persons are unwilling to take over the task, enough other candidates will remain. As this is a regular practice, you won’t upset reviewers by un-inviting them because you don’t need them this time.

If you are undecided about who to select, seek assistance from your colleagues or contact persons listed in the manuscript’s reference list. It is best practice to choose referees who are independent (i.e., not members of the editorial board). When your reviewer pool begins to expand, combine reviewers of whom you know that they submit qualified reviews with referees not yet known to you.

Establish a positive relationship with your reviewers. Keep in mind that reviewing is a voluntary effort. Also remember that reviewers are potential authors. Treating them courteously will pay off as good “PR” for your journal. As your role is to moderate the review procedure, try to stay neutral. If a dispute between authors and reviewers ensues, never take sides, but enforce ethical standards of behavior in the discourse between both parties.

Provide detailed reviewer guidelines to the referees to avoid misunderstandings and ensure consistency. Be sure to track the manuscript through the whole reviewing procedure, set a clear due date for the review (it should not take more than four weeks), and require them to meet their deadlines. OJS will relieve you of many of these tasks by assisting you in process management and time control issues. You may also use the contact options of OJS to regularly inform authors and reviewers on the status of a manuscript.

If a manuscript is accepted with revisions, consider which of the proposed revisions are required and which can be changed at the author’s own discretion. Always give a firm due date for the submission of the reworked paper (not later than 2 weeks), and check, whether the author has worked in all obligatory revisions.

If your final decision is a rejection of the paper, express your statement benevolently, and provide as much constructive feedback as possible. If you come to the conclusion that a manuscript is not appropriate for your journal but appears to be well suited to fit into the publishing program of another one, encourage the author to submit the manuscript there.

After the review procedure has been completed, thank reviewers for their efforts and let them know about your final decision. In addition provide feedback on the reviewers’ reports to help them to improve the quality of their work.

In rare cases, you may choose to decide against all reviewers’ recommendations. If so, provide a detailed explanation in which you explain the reasons for your decision, and give reviewers the possibility to appeal your decision.

Manuscript preparation

After a paper has been reviewed, the manuscript preparation process starts. Your responsibility is to publish a reliable text – not only regarding content but also language, grammar, spelling, quotations, tables, figures, and layout. Don’t forget to edit the abstract carefully, as users often judge from it whether they want to read the full text or not. An abstract should briefly outline the aims, central points, findings, and conclusions of a paper.

Depending on the workflow and organizational structure of your journal, copyediting, proofreading and layout may be done by yourself, members of the editorial board, or specifically appointed personnel (copy editor, layout editor, proofreader, etc.).


Towards the end of the difficult journey of getting a new journal started, you certainly want to bring it to the attention of your readers. Our PsychOpen team will relieve you of much of the necessary work: To ease the retrieval of your publication, we will add DOIs to all articles, provide indexation, and enrich file documents with metadata, which will be made available to metadata harvesters. As our system allows cross-searching the fulltext of publications, being under the umbrella of PsychOpen will raise the community’s awareness for your journal. Moreover, we regularly present PsychOpen at international conferences, meetings, and workshops.

In addition, you can foster the visibility of your journal by your own involvement. Professional networking is a very effective method to inform prospective readers about a newly released journal and its current issues. Notify your colleagues via mailing lists (Note: Stick to the facts and avoid “promotional” language as it is considered unprofessional), personal e-mails, social networks, lectures, and other communication channels. If your colleagues maintain relevant homepages or blogs, ask them to embed links to your journal. Involve all members of the editorial team to include the journal’s name and URL in their e-mail signature. It can also be worthwhile to approach learned societies and other professional organizations to ask them to announce your journal on their homepage or membership list.


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