A fresh look at publishing

January 6, 2011

To see a journal where the article format was redesigned for digital distribution, as discussed in the article "Rip it up and start again" (16 December), take a look at Optics Express (www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/issue.cfm).

1. Since page lengths are irrelevant on the web, contributors to Optics Express pay a fixed fee upon acceptance of their paper that covers the costs of peer review and maintaining the server. This cost is lower than those involved in publishing paper-based journals, since there are no costs for ink, paper, and postage, which typically comprise half the cost of putting out a journal.

2. Our original intention was to publish a letters journal, so we guarantee the very quick publication of short articles.

3. There is no extra charge for publishing movies, interactive files, colour pictures or full datasets - things that are impossible to offer in print publications.

4. Our peer review is faster than most people thought possible, with editing of articles kept to a minimum. These features have turned out to be very popular with authors. The time scale is generally two weeks or less from submission to acceptance, and one day to two weeks from acceptance to publication.

5. All submission and peer review is done online.

6. Authors receive a CD-Rom containing all the articles from the year in which their work has been published. This makes it easy for scholars to set up "mirrors" of Optics Express at their university libraries, at least in theory.

7. Perhaps most important, the journal is fully indexed, and the index is available online. It is also sold as part of the annual Optics Index CD-Rom or DVD package.

8. All articles are provided free to readers. This ensures the widest possible distribution, which is particularly valuable to authors working in highly specialised fields.

9. The references appear at the top of the articles. This was first suggested by someone commenting on an American Library Association survey. I put it in the LaTeX and Word style sheets, and in sample documents, and it was warmly received.

10. Articles are published as PDFs, but before you go to the trouble of downloading the PDF, we provide a separate abstract page, with title, author, abstract and references. This was suggested by ALA research. I added two other things: the size of the file, and links to any multimedia content (so people could look at the movies first). This has been popular.

F.E. Harris - via website

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