15 June 2022

UT publishes a Diamond Open Access journal ‘in-house’: what does that require?

In 2023, the first edition of the 'Journal of Human-Technology Relations' will be published by UT. This journal will be a Diamond Open Access journal, meaning researchers and students can publish articles for free and everyone can read it free of charge. In this article, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Human-Technology Relations Peter-Paul Verbeek and Society & Technology Project Manager Michelle de Boer explain why they are setting up this journal and what it will involve.

In 2018, Peter-Paul Verbeek chaired the hugely successful first edition of the 'Philosophy of Human-Technology Relations (PHTR) conference' at UT. In July of this year, the third edition of this conference will take place in Copenhagen. The first PHTR conference attracted a broad range of academics and other parties involved in analysing the interaction between humanity and technology. People from all kinds of sectors attended, from robotics, healthcare and design to philosophy, sociology and anthropology. As a result, a PHTR community was born, and this community needs a medium for publication and communication.

Free access for both readers and authors
The 2020 edition of the conference was fully digital due to Covid. This was a blessing in disguise, according to Verbeek and De Boer. 'It allowed people from all four corners of the globe to take part, including researchers who did not have the money to travel. Consequently, the PHTR network grew strongly and reached into new areas. It clearly demonstrated that when you make it as easy and as cheap as possible for people to participate, you gain a much broader range of perspectives. For this reason, we want our PHTR journal to be completely Open Access, i.e. available completely free of charge to both readers and authors. This is known as 'Diamond Open Access'. However, it's a pretty radical plan, as of course it costs money to publish a journal!'

In-house publishing at UT
Verbeek and De Boer started by looking for a good place to establish the journal. Eventually, they decided against publishing it via OpenJournals.nl, a platform run by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and instead opted to publish it in-house at UT. 'With OpenJournals, you have to pay an annual fee as well as costs for final editing and layout, so we decided to use Open Journals Systems (OJS), which is free publishing software. Furthermore, doing it all in-house gives us maximum freedom and it helps boost UT's profile, as the subject matter and the combination of technology and social sciences is a fantastic fit for UT. However, that is not to diminish the vital importance of the OpenJournals.nl platform. Time will tell whether Diamond Open Access journals will eventually be published by the individual universities themselves or incorporated into a single national platform.'

BMS to provide funding for five years
The Faculty Board of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS) was willing to provide financial support to the project for five years. 'An evaluation will take place after two years', explains Verbeek. 'We are also fortunate that the Library, ICT Services and Archives (LISA) will not charge us for their functional management services as LISA considers this a pilot. Furthermore, as a Distinguished Professor, I have an extra budget that I can use at my own discretion to fund scientific endeavours. And of course, Michelle (de Boer) is the project manager of my Distinguished Chair, which allows us to work with great flexibility.'

One day a week, De Boer serves as managing editor, while Verbeek shares editorial duties with Assistant professor Olya Kudina of Delft University of Technology. The Journal of Human-Technology Relations is also affiliated with the NWO's Gravitation Programme 'Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies', within which Verbeek is one of the principal investigators.

Front-end, back-end and setting up a workflow
The primary cost item is the substantial amount of time required to organise and investigate everything. 'You first have to establish a solid organisational structure with highly regarded chief and associate editors', explains Verbeek. 'You have to set up the front end of the platform (the website) for your readers and the back end for the authors, reviewers and copy/layout editors. We had a whole host of questions to answer when setting up the workflow. What licences are we going to use? Which quality requirements will we have to meet to be included in the Directory of Open Access Journals and citation indexes such as Scopus? And how will we archive everything?'

Working together across UT
'You also need a logo and a cover design', adds De Boer. 'We want to be included in the Commission on Publication Ethics (COPE) and we must meet the requirements for the plagiarism check. The information specialists and other UT colleagues have been a great help and we noticed that knowledge of all these aspects within UT is spread across a wide range of people. The teamwork has been wonderful and it's truly inspiring to work so closely together with so many different people within UT.'

De Boer believes it would be valuable if the knowledge required to publish an OA journal could be incorporated into a single unit within UT. 'It would be wonderful to set up our own OA publishing firm within UT, as this would boost our visibility. Delft University of Technology already has its own OA publishing firm named Delft Open, which already publishes a wide range of open journals.'

The ability to publish the journal in-house is a great source of inspiration to Verbeek. 'We can now experiment with layouts. Students can publish articles based on their theses and we will also publish pictorials (articles consisting mainly of pictures) and reviews of exhibitions with a technical dimension. It is truly a privilege to be given so much freedom and trust by UT.'

Long-term funding
Of course, the burning question is whether UT will continue to fund the Journal of HTR in the long term. 'We've initiated an experiment involving the entire scientific community', says Verbeek. 'The universities in the Netherlands could make agreements between themselves regarding who will run particular journals. The goal is to get them to redirect part of the money they currently use to buy expensive subscriptions in order to invest in self-publishing of Diamond OA Journals. Of course, the quality of these journals must be very high and it will take time to prove this.'

Another option is for the HTR journal to be taken over by a publisher at some point in the future and hence to become a Gold Open Access Journal. However, Verbeek wants to avoid this as he doesn't think it is fair to make authors pay to publish their articles. 'This creates a substantial obstacle for researchers at universities in less affluent countries.'

Double-blind peer review
Will the peer review for the HTR Journal also be open? For the time being, Verbeek and the editorial team have decided that will not be the case. 'For the time being, it is vital that we build up a solid reputation and double-blind peer review will help us to do so. Our readers must be able to trust the journal's judgement when it comes to scientific quality. Open peer review is also trickier in the humanities than in the technical sciences.'

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