Best tools for running Open Access journals
Open Access OJS Typeset

Best tools for running Open Access journals

Shanu K
Shanu K

Tools that work on a small budget. Simple, affordable, and efficient for your needs.

Shoe String Budget

Technology has made many things possible. A couple of decades ago, launching a journal was a huge deal — going up against the giant publishers was an impossibility, and the logistics and costs involved were downright prohibitory. Not any longer, of course. With knowledge consumption having moved online, for the most part, scores of digital open access journals are launched every year.

With proper planning and the right tools in their arsenal, publishers can run OA journals at a small fraction of the running costs of, say, an Elsevier or a Springer journal.


The Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS), for instance, recently revealed their annual running costs and the numbers are, well, very affordable. They write in their blog post titled ‘Cost models for running an online open journal

“At 300 papers/year, this is $813, or $2.71/paper. This is what we actually pay today, covered by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.”

This figure may seem very impressive, but do note that they do almost everything via volunteers, do little to no marketing, and very little copyediting.

An OA journal which has more ambitious plans would be looking at an APC of about $100 to $150 per paper (or less, with just the right tools). In this blog post, we will cover all the best tech tools you can use to run and grow your journal on a shoestring budget. We’ll take these by the stages in a journal’s development. If you are planning to start an open access journal, do read my blog post on how to start an open access journal too.

Suggested reading: Open Access Publishing Guide

Setting Up


At the initial stages of your launch, you will need to create and publish a website for your journal. This is practically a requisite for inviting quality submissions from authors, an important step in proving your credibility, and a mandatory requirement for inclusion in repositories and indexes.

The expensive route is to hire a designer and developer to create your website. This could set you back by $1000 — $10,000 (or more).

The shoestring option includes several possibilities. There are several cheap website builders available today, including Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace etc. Domains can be bought off and hosted on Godaddy. These are standard and can be pretty quick DIY. Domain name registration would cost about $10 a month and hosting could entail up to $20 per month.

Some journal management systems like OJS have in-built plugins for building websites. To learn all about OJS, visit: The A-Z of Open Journal Systems (OJS): Chapter 1, The A-Z of Open Journal Systems (OJS): Chapter 2.

At this stage, you will also go about setting up an editorial board for your magazine. This is a critical step. Also, don’t forget to register for DOI from Crossref or any other DOI registration agency. DOIs will cost you $1 per article. Read more about DOIs and Crossref.

Journal Management


You’ll need to set a workflow for your journal. This includes deciding on how authors will send in their submissions, the editorial elimination process, managing reviewers, communicating with authors, etc.

Doing this manually, though free, is time-consuming and error-prone. There are several open source journal management systems available. While open source does not mean free, it can be relatively inexpensive. OJS, again, is a popular favorite with the OA community. OJS’s service starts at $45 per month for small publishers (~300 articles a year). Scholastica, Coko’s PubSweet, and Highwire Press’ BenchPress are other examples.

SPARC has a great list of some of the most popular journal management systems: Journal Management Systems.

Typesetting and formatting


Articles need to be published in several formats — PDFs for end-users, JATS XML for search engine visibility, specific XMLs for submission to repositories and indexes, HTMLs for hosting on your website, etc.

Some OA publishers do the typesetting and formatting in-house via volunteers while others resort to third-party vendors such as Scholastica or Manuscriptedit. Manual typesetting and formatting takes time and can call for a lot of back and forth to correct errors, especially when outsourced. A lot of vendors do not do JATS XML (an extremely critical file format that increases your journal’s readership). Also, costs can be prohibitive for getting articles typeset in multiple formats. Scholastica, for example, charges $5 for typesetting 500 words and $7 per figure/table . So, you can choose to just pay for typesetting on an article-by-article basis.

There are a couple of tools that publishers with a tight budget and timeline would like. SciSpace and Typefi are automated typesetting tools. Costs for these are relatively low and articles can be converted automatically and instantly. At SciSpace we offer multiple output formats, even specific JATS XMLs as may be required by indexes like PMC and SciELO or Crossref. Conversions are done in seconds and require no expert knowledge. SciSpace works well with Crossref, OJS, and several other essential publishing software. See all Scispace features for publishers.


Starting a journal and growing a journal are two different challenges altogether. Once you launch a journal, you then have to market it to reach its intended audience and attract quality submissions and reviewers.


Again, thanks to technology, you do not need the big marketing teams that power popular publishers. Strategic social media marketing and submissions to OA and non-OA directories and indexes such as MEDLINE and DOAJ can get you the same reach for free. Academic SEO that we, at Scispace, do for all our machine-readable JATS XML file conversions is another zero-sweat way to improve your journal’s reach. We add rich metadata to your XML files to increase their appearance in relevant search results.

“Making research papers machine-readable is the future. Most of the research is discovered via search engines like Google and Google Scholar and this trend will only increase in the future. Publishers need to make sure their papers are properly indexed and optimized for search engines.”
~Christopher Glass, Senior Editor, OJED

Read all the ways you can market your journal in my blog post titled ‘How to Increase Journal Readership: The Complete Checklist’. Most of them cost $0. You are welcome.


There are some lists of tools that have been created by different reliable entities. You can go through these and find ones that fit your requirements best.

BMJ Lab: An A-Z list of scholarly publishing and open science platforms

Library Publishing Coalition: Publishers and Service Providers List

The Scholarly Kitchen: Open Access Technology Options

Scholarly Communication Tools: 400+ Tools and innovations in scholarly communication (addressed to researchers, but several gems in there for OA publishers on a budget too).

SciSpace is a platform built specifically for scholarly communications publishing. It helps you automatically typeset, format and convert to JATS XML, PDF, HTML, PMC XML, Crossref XML and just about any other publishing format within seconds and at a fraction of the cost of manual typesetting. Besides autoformatting, SciSpace has a slew of powerful features including plagiarism checker, integrated HTML publishing, article-level analytics and more.

Quick tip:- You may want to explore SciSpace discover if you want research platforms that streamline workflows. We simplify the process of finding, writing, and collaborating on research papers with a comprehensive end-to-end solution.

It has everything you need to be successful: a repository of 270 million research papers from across disciplines with SEO-optimized summaries, a public profile to showcase your experience and expertise, a collaborative text editor that's specifically designed for researchers, and more.

Explore all of SciSpace’s capabilities and book a free demo to see what we can do for your journal.

Before you go


If you found the above article interesting, the following blogs might also interest you.

  1. 10 Ways to Get More High-Quality Submissions for Your Academic Journal
  2. How to Increase Journal Readership: The Complete Checklist
  3. How to Start an Open-Access Journal
  4. How to Submit Metadata to Crossref: A Step by Step Guide