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Open Access Toolkit: Publishing an OA journal

Why make your journal Open Access?

Your contributors will benefit from:

  • Increased discoverability of and access to their research 
    • OA publication makes research outputs freely available to anyone with an internet connection. This means that your research findings are available to a wider audience and it is easier for other researchers and the general community to find, read, engage with and cite your work.
  •  Potential for greater academic impact
    • Evidence is emerging that open access publishing can increase citation rates. The Open Citation project provides a bibliography of studies demonstrating the relationship between open access and increased citation impact.
  • Potential for greater impact in society and industry engagement
    • The Australian Government's 2016 National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) introduced new funding arrangements for universities that give equal emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement as it does to research quality. Open access publishing facilitates the dissemination of research results and knowledge of researchers' expertise and research projects within the wider community.
  • Compliance with funding mandates

How to publish an OA journal

Creative Commons (CC) licences provide a simple standardised way for authors to share their work with others. Offering works under a CC licence does not mean authors give up copyright. The licences allow users to reuse, remix and share the content legally, as long as they follow certain conditions. They are widely used and provide an excellent choice for managing the licensing aspect of publishing an OA journal.

 Authors publishing in your journal should sign an open access licence agreement. If no licence is applied Australian copyright law automatically applies. A CC licence makes it clear to users under what circumstances they can share and reuse the content without needing to visit the journal's sharing and reuse policy or contact the journal or author. Visit the Creative Commons website for more information and assistance in selecting the most appropriate licence for your and your authors' needs.

Subscription-based journals can still support open access by implementing an open access policy that is compatible with the requirements of major funding bodies in Australia and internationally. 

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council  (ARC) require that any publication arising from NHMRC or ARC supported research must be made open access within twelve months of publication. See more information about funders’ open access mandates.

To facilitate a more open access friendly journal, you can:

  • Make your open access policy explicit and available on your website.
  • Ensure your policy allows authors to deposit their articles in an open access repository within twelve months of publication. It doesn’t have to be the final, published version of the article – frequently journals permit the author’s accepted manuscript (the peer-reviewed version accepted for publication) to be made freely available. 
  • Consider offering authors an open access option for a fee, known as an Article Processing Charge. This is referred to as a hybrid open access model and can be a way of transitioning to open access.

There are many pathways for converting a journal to open access, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and considerations.

Harvard Library published a comprehensive literature review on options and best practices on converting subscription-based scholarly journals to open access, including analysis of different scenarios and case studies of journals that have made the transition:

More recently, Lars Wenaas authored a paper describing a case study of 11 Norwegian journals in the humanities and social sciences that transitioned from subscription to open access:

  • Wenaas, Lars. Attracting new users or business as usual? A case study of converting academic subscription-based journals to open access. Quantitative Science Studies 2021; 2 (2): 474–495. 

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) also have a comprehensive guide on Transitioning Your Journal from Subscription to Open Access.

Operating an OA journal takes resources and will incur some cost.

  • Volunteer effort plays an important role in most not for profit OA journals' operations. Editorial help is relatively easy to source. It may be more difficult however to get volunteers to perform other technical tasks such as copy editing, web maintenance and typesetting.
  • Donations of time, resources and money are another source of support for OA journals. 
  • You may be able to generate income through the journal’s operation:
    • Article Processing Fees charged to authors are a common method of funding OA journals. 
    • Request payment for added value products such as PDF format or compilations of material.
    • Sell advertising on the journal’s web site or in the journal itself.
    • Society membership fees.

How will researchers, librarians and the general public discover your journal and its content?

Journal indexes, directories, metadata harvesters and search engines 

  • Indexing and abstracting services enable the content of your journal to be integrated into the body of literature in its field and ensure articles can be easily located. Once your journal has a track record of timely publication and solid content, contact indexing and abstracting services for consideration. Look for journal indexes that cover your field. Some important indexes include:
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. See their page on how to get your journal content / article metadata indexed in DOAJ.
  • Ensure your journal is listed in as many relevant indexes and directories as possible.
  • Endeavour to have your articles discoverable in Google and Google Scholar. Google provides policy and technical information for scholarly publishers and societies.
  • The WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway provides you with a self-service tool, available at no charge, for harvesting the metadata of your unique, open-access digital content into WorldCat. Once there, your collections are more visible and discoverable to end users who search WorldCat as well as Google and other popular websites.
  • Trove, the Australian National Library gateway to Australian resources also harvests metadata from partner institutions including publishers and is searchable via Google.

International Standard Serial number (ISSN)

Obtain an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), a uniform worldwide means of uniquely identifying a serial publication. It is free and simple. Contact the Australian ISSN Agency.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOI)

The DOI system is designed to uniquely identify and facilitate the location of digital material. Consider joining CrossRef, the official Digital Object Identifier (DOI) registration agency for scholarly publications. It also supplies a number of useful cross referencing services that will help integrate your journal's material into other literature. Author's should cite the unique DOI given to their article when promoting their article online as the DOI will link to the full text and also enable systems such as PlumX and Altmetric to track mentions in social media, blogs and news items as well as citations, views, downloads and more.

Professional networking 

  • Announce the journal and new articles as they appear on professional mailing lists.
  • Include a link to your journal or the DOI for selected articles in your email signature.
  • Post on social media. Remember to use article DOIs.

Support for OA journal publishing


Guides for OA Journal Publishers. This is a list of guidelines, primers, recommendations, and best practices for publishers of OA journals.

Library Publishing Directory. Produced annually by the Library Publishing Coalition. The LPC supports an evolving, distributed range of library publishing practices and furthers the interests of libraries involved in publishing activities on their campuses.

Open access journal publishing [Graphic] by Open Access Australasia. Detailed graphic outlining what OA journal publishing is and why it's important. Includes links to additional support resources. 

Note: Whilst UWA Library considers these directories valuable resources, you may find some broken links on these sites.

Comprehensive guides

Open Access Journals Toolkit (DOAJ and OASPA, 2023). Guidance for new and established open access journals to navigate the rapidly changing scholarly publishing landscape.

Developing Open Access Journals: A Practical Guide (Chandos Pub, 2008).  This book by David J. Solomon provides a practical guide to developing and maintaining an electronic open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal. 

Library Publishing Toolkit (pdf, 400p,  IDS Project Press, 2013) This OA book, edited by Allison P. Brown, can also be downloaded free from iTunes/Apple Books or purchased in print from Amazon. Several chapters relate to publishing an open access journal eg. Open Access Journal Incubator at University of Lethbridge Library by Sandra Cowan.

Brief guides and blogs

Principles of transparency and best practice in scholarly publishing. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

How to start an Open Access journal. (September 4, 2013). Brief post by fictocriticism author Karina Quinn (aka Quinn Eades)

Essential guide: How to start an Open Access journal in five steps. (ca 2013). Suzanne Pilaar Birch describes her experience of getting Open Quaternary started. 

Starting an Open Access Journal: a step-by-step guide part 1 and part 2 (2012) Dr Martin Paul Eve, Lincoln University.

Transitioning Your Scholarly Society’s Journal To Open Access by University of North Carolina



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