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Guidelines for the Launch of a New Journal Title

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1. Introduction

There is a growing trend among academic libraries for the provision of a publishing service as an extension of a larger suite of scholarly communication offerings. This service is associated with advancing the strategic objective of transitioning the library’s collecting activities away from licensing content and towards supporting open access to scholarship. The library publishing service at the University of Cape Town is located within the institution’s commitment to sharing African scholarship as widely as possibly. The open access policy of UCT is testament to its commitment to sharing its scholarship. UCT Libraries is mandated by the University to be the stewards of the policy; a policy that is underpinned by a social justice agenda.

The Library’s open access publishing agenda contributes to consolidating an alternative stream for the dissemination of South African and African scholarship; providing new avenues for sharing scholarship; eliminating barriers to sharing of scholarship. In consolidating this alternative stream, there must be close monitoring of the journal to ensure academic rigour and sound technical support.

2. Purpose of the guide

The purpose of the document is to provide guidance to journal management teams of prospect journals for the launch of new titles. As much as current titles are encouraged to flip from hardcopy to an open access digital version or from closed (subscription journals) to open access, this document provides guidance for new titles to ensure veracity, authenticity and academic rigour en route to national and international recognition and accreditation by institutions such as DHeT, DOAJ and other citation platforms. The guidelines presented below can also be applied to titles that are flipping from hardcopy to digital and/or from closed to open access.

3. Criteria for consideration

Starting a new scholarly journal can be a complex process which is exacerbated by prejudices against new titles from the global south.  Hence, it is critical that new titles follow rigorous academic processes to withstand undue criticism and to overcome prejudice. In this publishing model, there are a number of criteria that need to be taken into consideration when launching a new journal title. These criteria are recommended to demonstrate academic rigour and the absence of bias. Further, these criteria are recommended to mitigate prejudice.

There are criteria that are the responsibility of the library (technical of nature) and there are those that are the responsibility of the researcher/academic (academic of nature). Some of the criteria that the library would like to recommend are:    

3.1 Purpose of the journal

When contemplating the development of a new journal title, it is important for the Editor/s to ensure that the journal is developed around a niche area; that the title is a welcomed addition for the subject area. The journal should NOT be in specialised subject area that is already well covered by other journals. By the same token, the journal should have an active academic community which is large enough to supply a sustained flow of publishable articles.

In rolling-out of the new journal title, the Editor/s need to ensure that the content of the submissions to the journal are in line with the stated aims and scope of the journal. Such a focus will consolidate the publication direction of the journal. Further, the journal needs to demonstrate that it does contribute to the subject field.

It must be noted that a subject that is in a steady state will solicit continuity of contributions by specialist researchers. Further, there is a far greater likelihood for the journal to continue publishing their quality papers. Hence, it is critical that the new journal title settles down quickly to ensure it developed a steady state in the subject area.

3.2 Administrative structure of the journal

A journal’s administrative structure contributes to adding value to the journal through offering advice on journal policy and content and, creating awareness of the journal. The peer reviewers, in collaboration with the Editorial Team, the Editorial Board and journal management team, contribute to the quality of the journal and, compliance with acceptable scholarly journal publishing processes contributes to academic rigour.

3.2.1 Editorial board

The editorial board (sometimes known as an Advisory Board) typically consists of a group of prominent people in the journal’s field. The editorial board play a significant role in acting as ambassadors for the journal. For many, correctly or incorrectly, the quality of a journal is judged by the composition of the editorial board and academic credentials of board members.

Editorial Board is a team of experts in the journal’s subject field and often overlap with the ‘board’ of external reviewers. The Editorial Board takes responsibility for reviewing of submitted manuscripts; advise on journal policy and scope; identify topics for special issues, which they may guest edit; attract new authors and submissions.

Diversity in geographic representation of Board

Editorial board members of academic journals have significant influence on what is published and what informs theory development, research and practice. Therefore, editorial boards should be sufficiently diverse in their backgrounds to facilitate the publication of manuscripts with a wide range of research paradigms and methods. Further, a diverse Board will advance inclusivity and consolidate academic rigour.

3.2.2 Peer reviewers

The purpose of peer review is not to demonstrate the reviewer’s proficiency in identifying flaws. Reviewers have the responsibility to identify strengths and provide constructive comments to help the author resolve weaknesses in the work. A reviewer should respect the intellectual independence of the author. Peer reviewers are responsible for the quality, consistency, and impact of the journal in the research community.

Diversity in geographic representation of peer reviewers

As with the need for a diverse geographically representative Board, a diverse cohort of peer reviewers will promote inclusivity as an understanding of global south challenges will facilitate the identification of strengths in submissions from the global south.

3.2.3 Editorial Management Team

Editorial Management Team (EMT) are those that engage in the ‘hands on’ management of the journal. The EMT oversee the peer review process, the reconciliation process (that is, ensuring that the corrections recommended by the reviews are done by the author/s), copy editing of papers approved for publication, typesetting, and transmittal of proofs to authors. This Team works closely with authors if an article requires clarifications, language and formatting issues.

3.2.4 Journal Management Team

The Journal Management Team (JMT) is responsible for both the technical and academic components of the management of the journal title. The composition of the JMT could include the Editor-in-Chief, the person/s that support the academic elements of the journal and the technical support for the management of the journal.

3.3. Standing of Editor-in-Chief

The standing of the Editor-in-Chief is a major contributor to the recognition and acceptance of the journal. The standing of the Editor-in-Chief within the discipline impacts the attestation of the academic quality of the journal. An Editor-in-Chief with, for example, a low H-index does not bode well for the quality of the journal.

3.4. Peer review process

Peer review is critical to maintaining research quality of the journal and is the dominant method for research validation. As long as the journal can demonstrate quality, the journal could use either single blind or double-blind review processes. The review process gives researchers the opportunity to improve the quality of their papers before publication, as reviewers will often give recommendations for improvement along with their assessment.

The “blind” in single blind review refers to what information authors can see. In a single blind peer review, reviewers’ identities are kept hidden from authors; however, the reviewer knows the identity of the author/s. In a double-blind peer review, the identities of both the authors and reviewers are not revealed.

A significant benefit of double-blind review is that it reduces the possibility of reviewer bias. Bias can take many forms, for example an author’s gender, country of origin, academic status or previous publication history.

3.5. Research and publication ethics

Research misconduct is a global problem that damages the reputation of researchers and research institutions and inevitably compromises the independence, integrity and credibility of the journal. Preventing research misconduct is the first step in upholding the integrity of the journal.

The following are examples of issues that contribute to maintaining the integrity of the journal:

3.5.1. Authorship

Naming authors on a scientific paper ensures that the appropriate individuals get credit, and are accountable, for the research. Deliberately misrepresenting a scientist's relationship to the work is considered as misconduct.

Examples of authorship are considered unacceptable:

  • ‘Ghost’ authors, who contribute substantially but are not acknowledged (often paid by commercial sponsors); and
  • ‘Guest’ authors, who make no discernible contributions, but are listed to help increase the chances of publication

3.5.2. Plagiarism

One of the most common types of publication misconduct is plagiarism–when one author deliberately uses another's work without permission, credit, or acknowledgment. Plagiarism takes different forms, from literal copying to paraphrasing some else's work and can include:

  • Data
  • Words and Phrases
  • Ideas and Concepts

3.5.3. Simultaneous submission

Authors have an obligation to make sure their paper is based on original–never before published–research. Intentionally submitting or re-submitting work for duplicate publication is considered a breach of publishing ethics.

3.5.4. Research fraud

Research fraud is publishing data or conclusions that were not generated by experiments or observations, but by invention or data manipulation. There are two kinds in research and scientific publishing:

  • Fabrication. Making up research data and results, and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification. Manipulating research materials, images, data, equipment, or processes.
    Falsification includes changing or omitting data or results in such a way that the research is not accurately represented. A person might falsify data to make it fit with the desired end result of a study.

3.5.5. Salami slicing

Salami slicing1 refers to the practice of splitting a large study that could have been reported in a single research article into smaller published articles. In other words, it means breaking up a single research paper into their “least publishable units,” with each paper reporting different findings from the same study. A set of papers are referred to as salami publications when more than one paper covers the same population, methods, and research question.

3.6. Limited percentage of authorship from one institution

To ensure impartiality, it is strongly recommended that the number of submissions from one department/institution be kept to a minimum. Strong representation from one department/institution gives the impression that the journal is an institutional journal and will not garner the credibility that is necessary for recognition by DHeT, DOAJ and citation platforms.

3.7. Limited percentage of authorship from SA

Diversity in authorship is important for the credibility of the journal. If a journal professes to be African in content, readership and authorship, then it must be truly reflecting as such. Dominance from one country gives a skewed view that detracts from credibility and negatively impacts on recognition.

3.8. Copyright statement

Gold/Diamond Open Access Journals allow the author to retain the copyright in their articles. Articles are instead made available under a Creative Commons licence (usually Attribution-Only, or CC-BY) to allow others to freely access, copy and use research provided the author is correctly attributed.

3.9. Date of submission and date of acceptance

A tell-tale sign of a journal lacking academic rigour is the ‘quick’ return around time from date of submission to publication. It is recommended that the individual articles within a journal have a date submitted and a date accepted. The date accepted is when the submission is ready for typesetting or just before the galley proof stage. A sufficient enough time delay corroborates claims of academic rigour which will include the peer review, corrections done by the author/s and the editorial reconciliation2 process.

3.10. Publishing plan

1 Elsevier. 2017. Ethics in Research & Publication Available at https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/653885/Ethics-in-research-and-publication-brochure.pdf
2 The editor accepts the comments from the reviewers and reconciles the review reports from the reviewers. A reconciled report is drafted by the editor confirming the changes that need to be enacted before the article is accepted for publication. The author makes the changes to the satisfaction of the editor. Once the reconciliation is completed, the article is then put through the technical process of layout editing.  

It is important to have a publishing plan, that is, the frequency of publication. There are different options that available given that the journal is in digital format. To overcome the issue of timeliness, one of the options is to adopt a rolling model for the publication of the article, that is, the publication of individual articles when it is ready for publication having gone through all of the academic processes. The publishing plan could then indicate the collation of the individual articles into an issue/volume. If the plan is to make articles available in issues, the publishing plan should clearly indicate how many issues/volumes will be published in each year.

3.11. Consistency

When the decision is made on a publishing plan, there must be close adherence to the plan. It is recommended that there is a minimum of 14 articles for a year – 7 articles per issue. This consistency must be over an extended period.

3.12. URL

When evaluating a website there are several components that are taken into consideration. The URL (Uniform Resource Locator: a protocol for specifying addresses on the Internet) is a clear indicator of the creator, the audience, the purpose and sometimes even the country of origin. Using https://openbooks.uct.ac.za  as an exemplar, the domain suffix (.uct.ac.za) offers insight into the type of organization the site is linked to (University of Cape Town). 

The domain suffix might also provide details on the geographic origin of a web site, each country also has a unique domain suffix that is meant to be used for websites within the country.

In this particular exemplar, the suffix gives the reader some level of affirmation that the journal is associated with a reputable academic institution in South Africa.

3.13. eISSN

An eISSN is a unique 8-digit code used to identify electronic media. The eISSN will make it easier for scholars and librarians to find and index the journal, and it will also signal to readers and indexers that the journal is an authentic publication.

It must be noted that the eISSN does not identify individual articles or certify its validity. Although eISSNs do not identify the journal owner, if a journal name changes, a new eISSN is necessary. This is important when considering a title change because the change will affect cataloging and indexing.

3.14. DOI

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a permanent unique object identifier for your journal that will make it easier for scholars and institutions to locate and cite the journal and the articles in it. While weblinks may change over time, the DOI will remain the same and carry all of the journal’s meta data. DOIs can be obtained through Crossref3, the official DOI registration agency.

DOIs are fast becoming mandatory for citation. It is composed of a prefix and suffix:

  • the DOI prefix is assigned to an organization by a DOI Registration Agency;
  • the suffix for a DOI is created by the organization depositing the DOI for a content item in the DOI system.
3 Please note that there are alternatives to Crossref which should be researched before adoption.

Conclusion

The publication of journals via the library using the diamond open access option addresses a number of issues. Firstly, it provides an alternative to the current commercial publishing model. Secondly, this publishing model offers a platform for the sharing of scholarship that does not fit into the global north model. This platform fosters inclusivity and advances social justice without compromising on academic rigour. Thirdly, it does not negatively impact on library subscription budgets.

Given the social justice underpinning of this model, this guide works towards guarding against vanity publishing. As much as the guidelines are developed to nurture and grow African scholarship, it does not compromise on academic rigour. Another significant underpinning of the guidelines is working towards acceptance to international indexes.


This resource was created by
Reggie Raju (PhD), Director: Research and Learning
Jill Claassen, Lena Nyahodza & Bonga Siyothula (Scholarly Communication & Publishing) UCT Libraries
July 2020

This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.