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July 26, 2012

In the wake of the Finch group's report on open access, the prevailing academic view of its merits and the wider issues has swung back and forth. However, between all the carping and cautious support, some people are intent on providing practical advice on how to get started.

Blogging on his personal website, Martin Eve, doctoral researcher in the department of English at the University of Sussex, has written a step-by-step guide to starting an open-access journal.

He begins by providing a brief summary of the costs involved given various assumptions, including the expectation that he is addressing humanities scholars. "If you are a scientist, this guide may still be of use, but there may be aspects of your field that I overlook; you'll have to fill in those gaps yourself," he points out. He says that setting up such a journal would cost roughly $350 (£225) a year, and even less if a number of people are involved.

Mr Eve goes into some detail about the "social vs technical" conflict. For him, the technical side of setting up an open-access journal is not taxing; what demands the most "time, energy and willpower" is sorting out the academic aspects of the journal - the editorial board, peer reviewers, copy-editors and proofreaders.

Next he turns to the technological side of setting up a journal. The framework he recommends is Open Journal Systems, a journal management and publishing system developed by the Canada-based Public Knowledge Project through its publicly funded efforts to expand and improve access to research.

His begins his next section, on finding contributors, by saying: "The key to launching a good journal is getting to the right people."

"Targeting field leaders (who may also be in your wider editorial board) and asking for specific contributions may be a way to ensure a solid start," Mr Eve writes.

"The problems that you'll face in an opening call are many. You will likely not receive a huge volume of submissions. They will likely not be from established names (not that this should matter). There will also probably be some articles that are weaker than you would like.

"Being candid: you have to strike a balance. Do not publish material that is out-of-the-question weak. On the other hand, be charitable work with authors to improve material where there is potential, or where a subset of the field may find use for it."

Presenting screen grabs of some technical facets of his own journal, Mr Eve describes the process of typesetting articles, which follows the copy-editing and precedes the proofreading stage.

Finally, Mr Eve tackles the uncertain and fearful period after publication, including advice on how to get the journal logged in library catalogues.

"If a journal survives beyond its second issue, I think it's fairly certain to continue. Make sure you have content ready to tide you over. If there's a conference that would yield an edited collection, a special issue could be just the thing.

"We can change the scholarly publishing world," Mr Eve concludes, but adds that ultimately "it's up to you".

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