You want to start an academic journal but don't know where to start?
Angela Cochran (Associate Publisher and Journal Director at the American Society of Civil Engineers) has many useful tips. She recommends keeping an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the details. It is also helpful to use this Excel spreadsheet to:
- Keep track of deadlines
- Share information
What else do you need to keep in mind?
These are basic metadata elements that must be decided relatively early.
Title - Do not make title changes. Otherwise new ISSNs will be necessary which will cause delays.
Internal Acronyms and Codes - The acronym may become part of the manuscript numbering system and the URL for the manuscript submission pages. You may also need a code for internal accounting purposes. You will probably need booking codes for outgoing payments, but also for incoming payments.
ISSN: Serial Publications should have an International Standard Serial Number or ISSN. Each format of the journal requires an ISSN, so if you have a print and an online format you will need to request two ISSNs. For upcoming print titles, an ISSN can be requested before the first issue is published when you provide the journal masthead page.
For online publications, you can request an ISSN as soon as 5 publications have been published. Instead of the journal masthead page, a URL is required. Many libraries require ISSNs for cataloguing, so it is important even for online-only journals to have an ISSN.
The ISSN must be registered with the International ISSN Registry so that Scopus (and others) can index the journal. Some international ISSN granting groups are not recognized by the ISSN Registry, so be sure to inquire in advance.
DOI - The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a persistent identifier used for the permanent citation and linking of electronic resources (texts, research data or other content). It is used for the identification of physical, digital or other objects offered in digital networks and is used primarily for online articles of academic journals. The central database in which the identifiers are stored is operated by the International DOI Foundation. DOI names are given by Crossref (and others).
FORMAT AND DESIGN
Appearance Schedule and Schedule - It is important to set the number of appearances per year, even if you intend to use a form of continuous publication (eFirst, Just Accepted, etc.). For example, "Abstract and Indexing" (A&I) services require this information.
Cover and Layout - Even with an online journal, you need something that looks like a "cover" and branding for your journal. Most eBooks or online journals have a graphic that looks like a normal cover, because many online platforms and library catalogues have a space for cover thumbnails. The Excel spreadsheet should contain all references to colour scheme, logos, branding and layout.
SUBMISSION AND PRODUCTION SET-UP
Submission Page - Write down the submission URL, if available. This will be important for marketing the journal and the call-for-papers campaign. This part of the table also contains information about the review process (Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editors, Editorial, Advisory Board, Single-Blind, Double-Blind, Open Review, etc.).
Article Types and Production - Depending on the type of journal, you might need another worksheet for this section: Are there any additional types of articles that the production team must include for the XML metadata?
Crossref and other indexing services - It is important to deposit the DOIs at Crossref (in case they weren’t created by Crossref) to increase the findability of the journal and its articles. In order to deposit a DOI for an article, an ISSN is required and, as already mentioned, for online journals only one ISSN can be awarded if at least 5 articles have been published. It is therefore important to get an ISSN as soon as possible.
Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics) - You can submit the application as soon as you start publishing content, but it may take a few years for your journal to be assigned an Impact Factor. Here you will find information on how to include a journal in the database.
Scopus (Elsevier) - You cannot apply for inclusion in the Scopus database until after your journal has been published for three years. Here you will find the online application process. Again, it can take years for you to know if your journal has been accepted or rejected.
Feed and crawler management - The Excel sheet should indicate if there are any metadata feeds or web crawlers to exclude. If not, you may need to add the new title to the feeds you manage (also see the next section "Website").
Homepage – The new journal should be added to the publishing platform. The homepage should include information on the subject and scope of the journal, the editor-in-chief, information on the submission of manuscripts, etc. and the possibility to sign up for table-of-content alerts. All this information should be noted in the Excel spreadsheet.
Enable or disable feeds - Depending on your platform, you may need to manually insert the journal into routine metadata feeds. You may need to suppress a feed until later (for example, if you do not already have an ISSN for Crossref).
CONTRACTS AND NOTIFICATIONS
- Do not forget to inform any partners about the new journal.
- If your organization has existing contracts (with print, proofreading, etc.), you may need to revise them if you need to adjust the contracted number of documents, depending on the size of the new journal.
- It is also important to review agreements with Abstract & Indexing (A&I) services or archival services such as CLOCKSS and Portico.
New journals require a considerable amount of marketing. The marketing plan should run in parallel with the journal’s launch plan. It is advisable to meet with the marketing and public relations teams of your organization(s) as early as possible. If possible, the new journal should be included in annual catalogues, etc. The new journal should also be announced at conferences.
Marketing materials may include, among others:
- PDF flyers with calls-for-papers (as email attachment, but with the possibility to print them for posters).
- E-mail campaigns to potential authors, members of your disciplinary association(s), e-mail lists and anyone interested in the new title.
- Interviews with the new journal editors in disciplinary journals and university newspapers.
- Flyers, posters, etc. for conferences.
- Editor solicitation cards (pocket-sized cards that editorial staff can use at conferences to ask speakers to submit their paper to the new journal).
- Social media campaigns: start early, post often.
There are many people in your organizations (such as disciplinary association or university) that need to know about the new journal:
- Membership - Should know that the new journal exists and be able to answer questions.
- Website Team - It is important to have information about the new journal on the websites of the organizations involved.
- IT and Accounting - Make sure the new journal has been added to all relevant reports and files.
The hardest part in the publication of a new journal is to compile the editorial staff and / or bring other volunteers on board and then to solicit content.
It is also important that high-quality, peer reviewed content appears regularly and on time.
Before the big journal launch and the associated marketing campaign, interesting articles should have been published to provoke the readers' interest.
It is not easy to start a sustainable journal. The competition among academic journals is great - and new ones are constantly being born. It’s a lot of work.
Abridged and revised from Angels Cochran's "Nuts and Bolts: The Super Long List of Things to Do When Starting a New Journal".