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Open Access Journals: starting and running a journal with Digital Commons @ TRU Library

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Erin May
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Starting an Open Access Journal

That's right, you could start your very own Open Access journal.

TRU Library provides digital publishing services to the University community (faculty, staff and students) by providing access to hosted online journal software: Digital Commons.

Digital Commons - a professional grade program that facilitates all aspects (call for papers, peer-review and online publishing) of open access journal publishing.

  • The Library handle the initial consultation, provides an overview of the software, and can make recommendations about how to implement the journal.
  • Digital Commons handles all of the graphic design, software setup, server space, maintenance, preservation, personalized training and on going support. 
  • The journal owners are responsible for providing the journal banner/graphics and publishing content. 
To get started, contact Erin May who will set up a consultation to understand your needs when setting up a new journal. Even if you are just thinking about starting a new open access journal, please contact me.


Journals on Digital Commons @ TRU Library

Setting up a Journal

Setting up a Journal

You will find it easier and faster to start your open access journal on Digital Commons @ TRU Library if you have already considered and developed policies and other content around the following questions:

General Information

  • What is the journal about? What do you wish the journal to achieve?
  • In which discipline(s) does your journal fall? Who is your target audience?
  • What will the title be? It is best not to request an Digital Commons installation until you are sure of the title. The title or acronym of the title often ends up as part of your url and it is not good practice to be changing urls.
  • Acquire an ISSN for your publication.
  • Will your journal be open access, have an embargo period, or be totally subscription-based?  If subscription based, how will you accept payment and manage subscribers?
  • If needed, how will your journal be funded? How will you ensure sustainability?
  • Is your journal sponsored by or associated with an existing organization? Who owns copyright of the journal?
  • Will authors retain copyright of their articles?

Editors/Editorial Board

  • What will be the structure of your editorial board? What will be the term and process for regular replacement/ongoing reappointment of members?
  • How many members will you need on your editorial board?
  • How will you solicit reviewers if your articles are to undergo peer-review?
  • How will you solicit content?
    • Undergraduate students?
    • Graduate students?
    • Faculty researchers?

Structure and formatting

  • How will the journal be structured?
    • Annual, Quarterly, Monthly?
    • Set number of issues per volume?
    • How many articles will make up an issue?
  • What other content will there be?
    • Book reviews? Case studies? Interviews? Original Research?
  • Will you accept supplemental materials such as art work?
  • What will be your citation style and format?
  • What file formats will you accept? Word?
  • What will the final paper look like? Font? Font size? Headings? etc...

Peer Review

  • What is your peer review process? Will all content be peer reviewed?
  • What criteria will be used to evaluate submissions?
  • Who reviews each paper first and considers it germane enough to send on? How many readers will provide a review? Will reviews be blind in all cases? Will readers' comments be passed on to contributors? What is the process if two readers disagree sharply?

Design Customization

Design Customization

You don't need to know HTML or CSS. Digital Commons handles all of the site design and layout.  Digital Commons works with you to give your journal a professional look and feel.

Once you have had your consultation with the Scholarly Communications Librarian, you will be set up with a consultant at Digital Commons who will begin the set up your open access journal.

The design process begins when you return a completed journal setup form, which you will receive during your consultation with the Scholarly Communications Librarian, to your Digital Commons consultant.  With the completed form, be sure to submit all images and other materials you’d like incorporated into the design. The Digital Commons design team will use these assets to create a site mock-up and up to two revised mock-ups based on your feedback. Once you approve a mock-up, Digital Commons will build a demonstration site based on the selected design. Your live site can be launched following completion of the demo site.

Promoting your Journal

Promoting your Journal

Journals hosted on Digital Commons are automatically crawled by Google and other search engines.

Other suggestions include:

  • Registering with Google Scholar
  • Asking your liaison librarian for further abstracting and indexing suggestions
  • If your journal is open access, consider applying to have your journal listed with DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Library and Archives Canada's mandate is "to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations." and publishers are legally required to make one copy of an online journal issue available to LAC within seven days of its release. Deposit guidelines.

As well as ensuring your journal is indexed and searched by both major and subject-specific search engines and indexers, you will want to promote it to your target audience. You can do this by announcing new issues on subject-specific and association listservs and social media.

Digital Commons Dashboard provides a central location for administrators to browse real-time download activity and generate usage reports on demand.

Geographic Visualization

In addition to the statistics reports, Digital Commons provides a readership distribution map for each title which visually displays where in the world your publication is getting readers.

Usage Reports

The Usage Reports tab features a visual snapshot of downloads and metadata page hits, with the ability to easily generate reports. You also have access to data for individual works and a tally of works posted during the selected time period.


The Downloads graph displays full-text downloads for the currently selected date range.

Click the Include additional files box if you wish to count supplemental files such as datasets, book chapters, or presentation materials. Additional file downloads will display in red at the top of graph bars.

To retrieve a download report for the active date range and filters, click the Generate Report button.

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a number used to identify an electronic journal article or other online intellectual property. Because DOIs remain stable even if an article’s host publication changes platforms, names, or publishers, they provide permanent and reliable links for citation, sharing, and discovery. When properly implemented in citations and references, DOIs can provide readers and researchers instant access to the sources they’re looking for.

DOIs are designated and administered by the CrossRef organization. You will need to become a member of CrossRef to issue DOIs. Subscription to CrossRef is not covered by our fees and must be paid separately.