Journal setup checklist and timeline

Topic lead: Rebecca Wojturska, Solange Santos, Katie Foxall
Last updated: 11/07/2023

There are many aspects to consider when starting a new journal. We have compiled a checklist to ensure that efforts can be targeted and are aligned with best practice and industry standards.

Launching a journal that meets industry standards as well as the needs of authors and readers takes more than just a website and content management system. This checklist should help new journals get started, and a downloadable version is available via Zenodo so you can easily track progress and set your own deadlines.

Each of the below bullets covers an aspect that new journals should consider as well as key information on it. Topics are linked to Toolkit pages so you can explore the discussion further, as appropriate.

  • Scope, aims and focus: Clearly define what you wish to achieve with the journal, considering your target communities, geographic focus (if any) as well as potential policy and socioeconomic impacts.
  • Title: Establish a name for the journal, and check the ISSN registry to ensure you don’t pick a title that is already in use or too close to something existing. You want something catchy that encompasses the core subject areas that the journal will publish. As part of this, also consider a suitable abbreviation for the journal’s name.
  • Editorial team & board: Build an editorial team and a governance structure, including clear roles and responsibilities. Pick a board that can help raise the profile and reach of the journal.
  • ISSN: Apply for a free ISSN pre- or post-launch via the ISSN national Center of the country where you want to register the journal. Internationally, you can use the ISSN Portal. An ISSN is a unique identifying code which is linked to your journal and its title. You will need one ISSN per format, so one for printed copies and one for digital copies. If you change your title at any point, you must request a new ISSN.
  • DOI registration agency: Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are assigned to each content piece within a journal, as well as journal issues themselves. DOIs can be obtained from various agencies, with Crossref providing them for many publishers across the world.
  • Content types: Decide what kind of content the journal should accept, and make a clear list that is aligned with disciplinary expectations.
  • Publishing model and frequency: Decide whether to publish traditional issues or adopt a continuous publishing model. If you opt to group articles into issues, determine how often you want the journal to publish.
  • Website: Find a website hosting platform that works for you. Pick a domain name so that the journal URL is straightforward and includes the journal title or acronym.
  • Editorial management system: Decide how you will manage submissions and peer review, as well as the copyediting and typesetting processes. Open-source software, such as Open Journal Systems (OJS), is often used to publish Open Access journals.
  • Design: Consider dedicated branding to help the journal stand out. Use the branding across the website and journal covers.
  • Policies: Get editorial policies and author guidelines in place before launch. Transparency is key, and policies should include information about the submission and peer-review process, a digital preservation policy, and a publication ethics statement.
  • Licence types: Open Access articles are often assigned a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence. Determine which licence(s) your journal will consider, and make this clear on the website so that authors are aware of the terms of publication.
  • Author agreements: Decide if any extra terms and conditions need to be applied to publications; if so, draw an author agreement as appropriate. By using a CC-BY licence and having a clear open access policy in place, journals typically do not need a formal agreement for authors to sign.
  • Marketing & promotion: Identify suitable marketing activities before launching the journal, targeting readers and authors alike. You may wish to consider conference presentation proposals, social media profiles, mailing lists and campaigns, blog posts and internal marketing (especially for library-based publishers).
  • Archiving & preservation: Create a backup and preservation strategy. You may wish to look at external preservation service providers, such as CLOCKSS, LOCKSS, the PKP Preservation Network or Project JASPER.
  • Indexing: Once you have content, start submitting the journal for consideration by indexing databases. This helps increase exposure and discoverability. Only submit to databases that are relevant to the journal’s subject area and always read the submission guidelines. Consider submitting to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  • Business models: Consider how you may achieve operational and financial sustainability over time. It is common to have kick-off funding or to develop a journal through volunteering efforts, but these options will be less feasible the larger the journal gets.

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