Disruptive Innovation in Scientific Publishing: Free Journal Management Systems

October 19, 2006

Like everything else in information technology, the costs of setting up and maintaining a scientific journal are rapidly approaching zero. A growing assortment of Open Source journal management systems is available today. Recently, I was introduced to one of these packages by Egon Willighagen as part of my involvement with CDK News.

Open Journal Systems

Open Journal Systems (OJS) automates the process of manuscript submission, peer review, editorial review, article release, and article indexing. All of these elements are, of course, cited as major costs by established publishers intent on maintaining their current business models.

OJS appears to work in much the same way as automated systems being run by major publishers. In fact, OJS is already in use by more than 800 journals written in ten languages worldwide.

Did I mention that OJS is free software - as in speech? The developers of OJS have licensed their work under the GPL, giving publishers the ability to control every aspect of how their journal management system operates. Standing out from the crowd will no doubt be an essential component of staying competitive in a world in which almost anyone can start their own journal.

Alternatives

And there's even better news: OJS has competition. Publishers can select from no fewer than seven open source journal management systems: DPubs; OpenACS; GAP; HyperJournal; SciX; Living Reviews ePubTk; and TOPAZ.

The Last Word

Open Source tools like Open Journal Systems have the potential to radically change the rules of the scientific publication game. By slashing the costs of both success and failure in scientific publication to almost zero, these systems are set to unleash an unprecedented wave of disruptive innovation - and not a moment too soon. What are the true costs of producing a quality Open Access scientific publication - and who pays? Will the idea of starting your own Open Access journal to address deficiencies with existing offerings catch on, especially in chemistry, chemical informatics, and computational chemistry? Before long, we will have answers to these questions.