Many open access journals run on open source software. This software is freely available online and needs to be installed on a suitable server to be run. Examples of leading solutions to manage open access journals and the article submission system include the Open Journal Systems, Kotahi and Janeway. These solutions can also help with production and typesetting: for instance, Kotahi allows its users to export manuscripts in JATS XML format, as well as to PDF or HTML.
There can be a distinction between the back-end and the front-end of journal websites. The back-end contains all the databases and information pertaining to the articles (and submissions), whereas the front-end is about the reader and the author’s experience of the journal (what people see as you browse the website or submission portal). The Open Journal Systems is a full service piece of software, covering both back-end and front-end, whereas Kotahi is for the back-end and the handling of submissions only.
Choosing the right software for an online journal is critical, as migrating from one to the other can be complicated once a journal has built up a portfolio. Some journals like the Journal for Open Source Software choose to build their own custom software; this is only recommended if the right mix of financial and technical resources are available.
Journals also need to make appropriate decisions in terms of hosting and technical integrations, as these affect the features of the website as well as its ability to communicate with other scholarly communication infrastructures.
Although software for creating an open access journal may be freely available, this needs to be run on a computer (i.e. a server). Journals may choose to self-host the software using server providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. Self-hosting means that journals are responsible for software updates and other maintenance to keep the journal running smoothly.
Otherwise, there is an option to buy hosted software as a service. In this case, journals do not need to get involved in server maintenance. If financial resources are available, but technical resources or time might be lacking, hosted software as a service is an effective solution. The Open Journals System and Janeway offer hosting services of this kind.
Sometimes, software and hosting come as a combined package. This means that the journal’s ability to influence technical features is more limited, but software management is even more streamlined. An example of this option is PubPub, which allows the creation of journals within their system.
Journals will need to integrate with other technical infrastructures, mainly to exchange metadata. This helps embed journals in public databases and maximise its visibility. Potential integrations that most journals need to consider include:
- Crossref or DataCite, to register DOIs
- ORCID, to allow authors to log in more easily
- Research Organization Registry, to include organisational identifiers
The technical infrastructures and integrations available to each journal may be limited by the software choice. It is crucial to identify what the needs of each journal are before selecting the software: some options allow for plugins (e.g. the Open Journal System) and may be more adaptable to user needs and future landscape changes.
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