14 More Steps to a Perfect Journal

Along the same lines as the last post on stalking the perfect journal — and still awaiting your suggestions of features that the perfect journal should have —, I’ll consider the points made by Chris Leonard who wrote a blog post called “14 Steps to the Perfect CS Journal”, when he was publishing editor within Elsevier with responsibility for theoretical computer science journals. The original post is not on the net anymore, but there is a mirrored copy here. Here are the 14 points:

1. FREE ACCESS — at least at the point of use. Subscribers access the journal for 1 year, then all articles are available to everyone who wants them?

We’ll have free, open access to everyone as soon as an article is published.

2. DIGITAL PRESERVATION — the profileration of electronic journals is all well and good, but they need to be available in 100 years time. This could be done by independent 3rd parties.

Agreed. We have that covered, as documented earlier.

3. UPDATEABLE ARTICLES — following the example of versions on arXiv, authors should be able to update their articles whenever new date or results are available. Old versions remain available as well.

Interesting. We will consider how to implement that. At a minimum, we would like to be able to have a comment system associated with each article where the author(s) can make post-publication comments.

4. BETTER PEER REVIEW — open, on-going peer review. Anyone can comment on an article and suggest improvements or point out inaccuracies. Maybe also worth adopting something like F1000 or this reviewer rating system.

As we said, we won’t experiment just yet with peer review, but this will go on our to-consider list.

5. SOME PROFIT — a commercial company needs to make a profit to survive. What would be an acceptable level of profit to make (after tax)? Any excess could go to reducing the costs of the journal subscriptions.

We won’t be looking to make a profit. So, this does not apply.

6. INTERACTIVE ARTICLES — apart from readers being able to leave comments on an article, it would be nice to see some real functionality in CS articles. Maybe raw data for manipulation within Mathematica or Maple?

Unclear how this may apply to articles in semantics and pragmatics.

7. RAW DATA — all articles to have raw data available on the web in an open, interchangeable format.

Where applicable, this would be good to implement. Psycholinguistic articles for example might be accompanied not just by a sample of the data used but by the full data set.

8. INSTANT PUBLISHING — if we adopt a model whereby people can comment on articles when they are published, peer-review becomes an constant, ongoing process. Authors may choose to make sure the paper is refereed before submission. When the editor evaluates a submission, he or she is simply making sure it makes sense and is in the right journal — a 10 minute process, eliminating the need for lengthy review processes.

We will certainly do instant publishing, but not before an article has been peer-reviewed privately and before it has been copy-edited and type-set. As we will discuss in a later post, we certainly want to co-exist with the repositories in our discipline (Semantics Archive, LingBuzz), so we will at least encourage authors to put their submitted manuscript into the repositories. (Note that this is somewhat incompatible with allowing authors the option of submitting anonymous manuscripts. Clearly something to think about.)

9. OPTIONAL PRINT — electronic journals with an optional print version available for a small fee.

Yes, that’s part of our plan.

10. RSS FEEDS — all journals to have RSS feeds for Table of Contents.

Absolutely. This is part of the functionality provided by the Open Journal Systems software we’re using.

11. SOCIAL SOFTWARE — allow users to tag articles to create a folksonomy (good for discovering articles from other journals you wouldn’t normal consult). Adopt things like ‘interestingness’ but for journal articles.

This goes on the to-consider list. We haven’t figured out what kind of interactivity there will be for readers.

12. SEARCH ENGINES — abstract or full-text indexed in all search engines.

Yes, the full text of our articles will be indexed.

13. ADVISORY BOARD — alongside an editorial board, an advisory board of scientists and librarians to suggest and comment on new directions for publishing the journal.

That is indeed part of our structure. Stay tuned for the announcement of the line-up of our Advisory Board later this week.

14. CUSTOMER SERVICE — available via email, but also Skype, instant messaging etc. A regular weblog from this source would also help keep interested parties updated on what is happening behind the scences.

This editors blog is obviously the beginning of such a service to our community. And we are available via email (editors AT semprag DOT org). What else should we consider?

This entry was posted in General by Kai von Fintel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kai von Fintel

I'm a professor of linguistics at MIT. I work on meaning. I am also Associate Dean of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. I have a wife, two kids, two cats, and a dog. I live in an intentional community (Mosaic Commons Cohousing) in Berlin, Massachusetts. I am a runner. I like soccer, a lot. I was born on a cold winter’s night in a small village on the Lüneburg Heath in Northern Germany.

2 thoughts on “14 More Steps to a Perfect Journal

  1. A brief comments about 3. UPDATEABLE ARTICLES: I like the comment idea, and it would be useful to have functionality for uploading addenda, errata, and the like. But I would suggest that there be just one published version of the article itself, warts and all, else citing S&P articles will be complicated. (They would require version numbers, which people would often forget.)

  2. Yeah, citing articles with multiple “official” versions would be a difficult issue. Doesn’t it seem ante-diluvian, though, to publish separate errata but to leave the erroneous article in place? Postscripts, addenda, and such seem fine as additional bits that could be separate downloads, although it might make sense to consolidate them somehow into the official file (what to do with pagination in such a case though? perhaps some kind of x-1 etc. numbering?). I understand that there are people working on citation issues with multiple versions of journal articles. Anyway, our first step will be to investigate the Open Journal Systems capabilities for addenda etc.

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