The Open Journal of Astrophysics

I’m pleased to point out that the Open Journal of Astrophysics is now open for submissions. Editor-in-chief Peter Coles has all the details. I’m a member of the editorial board of this new journal, although I confess that I have done nothing to help with it so far.

The journal performs peer review like other scholarly journals. Articles in it are published on the arxiv (where most astrophysics articles get posted anyway). The journal does not have the overhead of publishing in the traditional way, so it is free for both authors and readers.

I find the economics of traditional scholarly journals utterly baffling. As Coles observes, “The only useful function that journals provide is peer review, and we in the research community do that (usually for free) anyway.” I hope that efforts like this one will point the way to a more efficient system. I urge my astrophysics colleagues to submit articles to it.

Now let me confess to a bit of hypocrisy, or at least timidity. I’m hoping to submit an article for publication in the next few weeks, and I’m planning to send it to an established journal, not the Open Journal. The only reason is that I expect to apply for promotion (from Associate Professor to Full Professor) this summer, and I think there’s a significant possibility that some of the people evaluating my application will be more impressed by an established journal, with all the various accoutrements such as impact factors that go along with it.

This is quite possibly the last time in my career that I’ll have to worry about this sort of thing. In general, I care about the opinions of people who have actually read my work and formed a judgment based on its merits. Such people don’t need to rely on things like impact factors, which are a terribly stupid way to evaluate quality. So after this one, I’ll promise to submit future articles to the Open Journal (unless I have coauthors whom I can’t persuade to do it, I guess).


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Ted Bunn

I am chair of the physics department at the University of Richmond. In addition to teaching a variety of undergraduate physics courses, I work on a variety of research projects in cosmology, the study of the origin, structure, and evolution of the Universe. University of Richmond undergraduates are involved in all aspects of this research. If you want to know more about my research, ask me!

3 thoughts on “The Open Journal of Astrophysics”

  1. “So after this one, I’ll promise to submit future articles to the Open Journal (unless I have coauthors whom I can’t persuade to do it, I guess).”

    Good choice. Anything else would be hypocritical. I expect the other editors to do the same, at least if they have a full professorship. Maybe if they have even less (but a permanent job).

    However, do you really think that one more paper in an established journal would make a difference, even if one more paper might?

    Maybe you won’t get the promotion. Years later, after a few beers at a conference, the chair of the committee will reveal that you would have had that paper gone to the Open Journal of Astrophysics. 🙂

  2. Ted,
    If you have so little confidence in both your reputation, and your work, and the members of your department, and school, and also that they STILL fail to understand the impoverishment of your university libraries thanks to the strategic and correct efforts of the money-oriented publishers…that you find it necessary to submit to the commercial academic journals, contrary to your stated values and beliefs and evidence, then you have exactly demonstrated to all where your own, and many other academic denizens values lie, in relation to publishing and open access.

    I say, give it up, and follow your stated beliefs, and if you fail to make professor, it is time to find a new institution of people that understand the necessity of change. You are better than the evaluators (at this point in time…that will change in ten more years, when the movement towards open journals has won the field).

    How can you expect ANY other associate or assistant professor, or graduate student to follow you in publishing in open journals, if you cannot take your own advice?

    Further, if you have failed to persuade your university comunity at large, and its administrators and department heads and librarians, that the commercial academic press is not just a lamphrey attached to the university system, but a monkey on its back, in which your blog post so cogently and elegantly demonstrates the mode of addiction?

  3. “unless I have coauthors whom I can’t persuade to do it”

    As long as those co-authors don’t have permanent jobs, they can always point to your timidity as a reason not to publish there.

    There is a chicken-and-egg problem here. As long as people, like you, are afraid that publishing in the OJA might damage their career prospects, some, maybe many, maybe all, won’t publish there. As a result, there will be no example of someone who got a permanent job after publishing there, and thus even more reason not to publish.

    This could be counteracted if the journal develops a good reputation based on tenured people publishing there, but this might take longer since it means that fewer papers overall will be published there. Also, they will be a different kind of paper, simply because usually papers written exclusively by people with permanent jobs are different than those with students or postdocs, just because of the typical work done by students and postdocs.

    Do take into account the reverse scenario mentioned above. 😐


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