How to start an Open Access journal



Open Access publishing is all the rage these days, but how do you actually do it?

For the Managing Editors and Editorial Committee of the peer reviewed, interdisciplinary Gender, Sexuality and Diversity Studies (GSDS) journal Writing from Below it’s been a learn on the job affair, with attendant highs and lows. This is a list. It’s not an exhaustive list, but I’m writing it in the hope that if you have some niggling desire to found an open access journal you don’t know where to start, this might give you a platform to leap from.

I’m not going to go into the reasons why we founded Writing from Below here, but if you want to know more, our editorial, GSDS Takes Sides gives a pretty good run down. I’m also not going to go into the politics of OA, but there’s lots of great stuff out there if you’d like to read more.

So, the list:

Talk to your library

Without our Digital Infrastructure Manager, Simon Huggard, we would not be here. I already knew about Open Journal Systems Software (OJS, the open source content management system that we use for our journal) before I sent that first email. I also knew that hosting packages for OJS were kind of bespoke and cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year. So when I approached Simon I wasn’t expecting a lot. What I didn’t know was that La Trobe’s Library was already hosting another OA journal, Through the Looking Glass, and within a week I had been given a user name and password, and full access to OJS. Then I had to learn how to use it.

Read manuals

And then, before you start sending your kindly library person billions of questions, read more manuals. OJS is open source software; there’s a huge online community out there. Chances are your question has probably been answered, many times, and a simple Google search will furnish you with the answer.

Talk to your University

They will want to know what you’re up to, and they might even give you some support. La Trobe supports us by giving us server space, paying for our web hosting, giving us access to the PR department, and letting us access previously mentioned awesome library services and facilities. We also applied for, and received, funding from La Trobe’s Centre for Creative Arts to create a masthead for our website, and a logo for our FaceBook page and Twitter profile.

Get an awesome Editorial Committee

Our committee came together after I floated the idea of a journal at the end of La Trobe’s GSDS Symposium in 2012. A piece of paper was sent around, names and email addresses were gathered, and a couple of months later we had our first meeting.

Be efficient and flexible

Our committee is almost entirely made up of PhD students, which means we all have varied amounts of time that we can give to the project, and face to face meetings aren’t always an option. A private Google Group means we can talk between meetings, and that’s a good thing.

Decide how to structure your committee and stick to it

I grew up with consensus decision making, for nearly everything, thanks to my bohemian academic mum and her friends. This did not give me the skills to make top down decisions in my role as one of the Managing Editors, but this is exactly what I need to do sometimes, because otherwise stuff doesn’t get done.

Be kind, and open, and brave

This might seem obvious, but be nice to each other. Everyone on our committee feels overcommitted sometimes, and has to occasionally go underground to churn out thousands of words, or read fifteen books, or be pecked to death by tiny ducklings (the process otherwise known as marking). When this happens, those of us with less on our plates step in, and keep things going, and never snipe, because next time it might be us.

Get an awesome Advisory Committee

We really do have an awesome advisory committee. This mostly came about because of bravery. If there’s an academic in your field whose work you admire, approach them. I think we were only turned down by three or four people–everyone else came back immediately with an “Of course! I’d be honoured.”

Network, network, network

Once our first issue was ready to go, we built a FaceBook page and set up a Twitter profile. We have four admins on our FB page because a multiplicity of voices is always good, and it spreads the load. Likewise the tweeters amongst us login and tweet, and add followers, and follow back. We share our Call for Papers, great quotes, and news about what’s happening with the journal, but we also like to spread the social networking love. This means sharing or tweeting other cool journal pages or calls for papers, as well as news or information that we think our followers will like.

And that’s it. Well, it’s not really it. There’s always more, but it’s a good start. Go. Publish from below. Create space. Leap. There’s a net. It will catch you.

Author Bio:Karina Quinn, is a scholarly and creative writer working in queer theory, fictocriticism, and post-structuralist and feminist theories of the body, subjectivity, and self. She writes fictocriticism, short fiction, poetry, and also does the odd spoken word performance. Karina is currently writing her PhD titled ‘this body, written’ at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and is one of the Managing Editors of Writing from Below.