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Informations for Editors of Diamond Open Access Journals

The starting point for this information overview is the study on the Swiss landscape of Diamond Open Access journals conducted by the Platinum Open Access Funding project (PLATO) in collaboration with the Institute Applied Data Science & Finance of the Bern University of Applied Sciences from March to September 2022. As the PLATO study has shown there is a need for information and practical support  for Diamond Open Access journal editors in order to promote scholar-led publishing in the best possible way.

Against this background, the following information provides an overview of standards and guidelines in the areas of:

1) Workflows,
2) Standards for open access publications and
3) Sustainability.

The overview intends to provide editors of Diamond Open Access journals with informations about technical and non-technical standards, minimum requirements and best practices and to help them identify potentials for the optimisation of their journal operations. In addition, a checklist (PDF, 95 KB) is provided.

The Technical Guidance and Requirements of Plan S, the Transparency & Best Practice Principles of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing (COPE/DOAJ/OASPA/WAME), the minimum standards of the pilot project Building Consortial Solutions for Open Access (KOALA) and the recommendations of the OA Diamond Journals Study (Science Europe/cOAlition S) served as a basis and orientation for this overview. These guidelines and principles were enriched by input from OA experts at Swiss research institutions. Unless otherwise stated, they are valid for all disciplines.


«Workflows» encompass the totality of organisational and editorial tasks involved in scholarly open access publishing, ranging from the provision of information on the journal's website, the management of submitted articles, quality assurance procedures, to the distribution and indexation of journal contents as well as the collection of post-publication journal statistics. The journal's workflows should be set up in a robust and efficient way by making optimal use of the given human and financial resources. They also should be regularly reviewed and dynamically adapted to changing conditions within the journal's operations and the publishing ecosystem. Internal monitoring processes, keeping track of innovations in open access publishing, analysing user statistics and collecting feedback from authors and reviewers can be helpful in this regard.

1. Available Information

A professionally designed website with detailed, standardised and up-to-date information about the journal and its publishing principles is central to the journal's presentation and profile. These informations also provide key guidance for authors in choosing a suitable publication venue.

The journal should have its own URL and website that is accessible regardless of the location of access. A clear structure and easy navigation on the website will make it easier for visitors to find relevant information.

The website should contain the following information by default:

  • Journal name (and if applicable acronym),
  • ISSN,
  • Name(s) and affiliation(s) of the editor(s) and the editorial board as well as a contact address,
  • Description of the scholarly profile and objective of the journal,
  • Frequency of publication,
  • Description of the quality assurance procedure employed (peer review, editorial review, open review etc.),
  • Description of the journal's open access policy,
  • Submission guidelines for authors,
  • Creative Commons License (see Standards),
  • Long-Term Archiving Strategy (see Standards),
  • Indexation of journal (if applicable).

In addition, it is advisable to include further information concerning:

  • Publication ethics guidelines (see below),
  • ORCiD (Open Reseacher and Contributor ID)of authors,
  • Number of issues per year,
  • Annual journal statistics (see Standards),
  • Funding/sponsorship of the journal,
  • Disclaimer/possible conflicts of interest.

2. Publication Management

Publication management tools offer support in organising editorial workflows from the submission of manuscripts to the final publication by digitally representing the publication process. Also they can help improve the efficiency of workflows.

For publication management, the following open source solutions are offered for free but require hosting and updating which can incur further costs (e. g. for IT support):

There are also als commercial publication management softwares, for example Scholar One and Scholastica.

Some higher education institutions offer hosting services for Diamond Open Access journals, for example in the form of OJS-based institutional platforms that can be used free of charge by members of the respective higher education institutions: HOPE (UZH), BOP (UNIBE), ETERNA (UNIBAS), OAP (UNIGE), SOAP2 (UNIFR).

If you are interested in institutional hosting for your existing or start-up journal, contact your institution's library for advice.

3. Quality Assurance

A standardised procedure of scientific quality assurance lies at the core of the editorial work and constitutes the basis for the quality and reputation of a journal. Quality assurance includes not only review procedures but also aspects of publication ethics, transparency principles and compliance with standards of good scientific practice.

In practice, different quality assurance procedures are employed. The procedure chosen depends on the publishing practices and traditions within the respective discipline and research culture as well as on journal-specific criteria (e.g. accepted article formats). Most important is that the procedure employed is comprehensible and transparent for authors and reviewers.

The quality assurance procedure applicable to the journal must be described on its website, ideally also indicating an average time frame in which a decision on acceptance, revision or rejection of a manuscript is made. The criteria and reasons for a desk rejection – a decision made by reviewing the manuscripts at the time of submission and prior to the review process – should also be communicated transparently. In addition, it is equally important to provide potential authors with precise information on the journal website about what types of contributions are accepted and to which formal requirements  for contributions and submission deadlines authors have to adhere to.

4. Publication Ethics

Publication ethics comprises guidelines, practices and measures to ensure scientific quality and good scientific practice that are binding for all those involved in the creation of a scientific publication: editors, reviewers, and authors.

An overview of core policies and practices has been compiled by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Journals should implement these policies and practices in their workflows and quality assurance procedures and document them on their website.

Furthermore, editors should also agree on a procedure for dealing with any breaches of publication ethics and good scientific practice.

5. Plagiarism

In addition to a standardised procedure for reviewing the quality of manuscripts, it is also recommended to systematically check submitted articles for plagiarism.

Various (fee-based) software is available for systematic plagiarism detection (e.g. Similarity by TurnItIn, PlagScan, iThenticate). Some institutions have a license to use such software and provide access for their researchers and lecturers. Contact your IT support to find out if this is the case at your institution.

Please note, however, that the search results only provide indications of possible plagiarism which in turn must be checked and assessed individually.

6. Transparency

The provision of information on who owns and runs a journal, on how a journal operates and how it is financed increases transparency and trust in publication outlets. In this way, openness and transparency concern all areas of journal operations: editorial practice, organisation, and finances. The Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing (COPE/DOAJ/OASPA/WAME) provide an overview of best practices regarding transparency. They are to be understood as aspirational principles that journals should seek to follow as closely as possible.

7. Indexation

Indexation is recommended for all Diamond Open Access journals. It improves the visibility and findability of a journal and its contents.

Journal indexes (or bibliographic databases) are lists of journals that can be searched according to various criteria. They are used to find content for readers and are therefore also called «discovery tools».

The most important journal indexes, some of which are discipline-specific, are:

The indexation of a scientific journal is based on the fulfilment of certain index-specific criteria. For this reason, indexation is also regarded as a proof of compliance with minimum publishing standards.

Furthermore, an indexation in Sherpa Romeo (JSIC) is recommended. Sherpa Romeo is an online resource that provides information on the open access policies (copyright of authors and open access archiving policies) of journals. This information helps authors to make an informed decision about where to publish and, via the toolSherpa Fact, also to check whether the desired publication outlet meets the criteria of research funders.

8. Journal Statistics

The collection and publication of annual journal statistics serve to create transparency internally (internal monitoring) and externally, for readers as well as past and future authors.

According to the requirements of Plan S, journals should collect basic statistics on the number of downloads, number of submissions, number of reviews requested, number of reviews received, acceptance rate and average time between submission and publication and publish them annually. Unlike journal metrics (such as the journal impact factor), these data are not used to evaluate and/or rank journals.

Various tools are available for collecting journal statistics, although care must be taken to ensure that they are used in a manner that complies with data protection regulations. Tools such as Open Web Analytics or Matomo are recommendable.

Standards of Open Access Publishing

This section on standards covers the implementation of technical publishing standards for open access articles. These standards apply to all open access models, regardless of their business model, and are derived from requirements and recommendations of Plan S and of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Editors can obtain support in complying with technical standards from their institution's library or contact persons of institutional hosting platforms.

1. Copyright and Licensing

Diamond Open Access journals strengthen the autonomy and control of the scholarly community regarding its research output.

The fact that authors retain control over the use of their works and do not sign it over to a publisher (e.g. through a copyright transfer agreement) is one of the central defining criteria of the scholar-led publishing model (copyright retention). This corresponds to Plan S Principle 1: «Authors or their institution retain copyright to their publications. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), in order to fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration has collated information on all common licensing models here. Most commonly used are Creative Commons Licenses. Creative Commons Licenses (CC) provide a standardised way of exercising copyrights that allow authors to make decision about how their work can be copied, adapted, and distributed by users within the limits of copyright. There are six different licenses in total, ranging from more permissive (CC BY – attribution) to restrictive (CC BY-ND-NC – non-derivative, non-commercial).

Plan S and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) recommend the Creative Commons License CC BY as standard license.

The license must be published on the journal's website; it should be machine-readable in the metadata (see Standards) and human-readable in all text formats.

2. Persistent Identifiers

Persistent Identifiers (PID) enable the long-term referencing and findability of a digital publication.

A persistent identifier establishes a permanent reference to a digital object, for example a journal article. In digital publishing, different PIDs are of relevance:

  • ORCiD for persons,
  • DOI for publications and projects,
  • ROR for institutions.

Journals should assign DOIs to their published articles and ideally also implement the ORCiD of the author(s) and ROR of the institutions in their publication processes. DOIs for publications are registered via a DOI Registration Agency such as CrossRef or DataCite.

Due to the administrative effort involved in registering DOIs, persistent identifiers present a challenge for Diamond Open Access journals, particularly if they aren't institutionally hosted. In case you need support in registering DOIs, please contact your institution's open access experts.

3. Metadata

Metadata are part of a good scholarly publishing practice as they increase the quality of the data set as well as its discoverability.

Metadata are additional data that contain structured information about other data or resources and their characteristics. Metadata are stored together with the data they describe in more detail. The metadata provided should be as comprehensive as possible and published under a public domain dedication (CC0).

Different types of metadata fulfil different functions:

  • Bibliographic metadata such as title, author(s), or keywords enable the citation of data and code and increases findability and thematic delimitation.
  • Administrative metadata on file types, locations, access rights and licenses help with the management and long-term preservation of data.
  • Process metadata describe the steps and actions with their methods and tools used to create and process data.
  • Content descriptive metadata provide additional information on the content and origin of the data.

While bibliographic and administrative metadata can be standardised across disciplines, metadata on the process and content of research results often have a subject- or discipline-specific structure. It is precisely this subject- and discipline-specific information that is crucial for the discoverability and traceability of research data. Metadata can be human- and/or machine-readable.

A widely used standard for the bibliographic description of research data is the metadata scheme from DataCite. It specifies which information about a data set is mandatory, recommended, or optional.

OpenAIRE has compiled an overview of metadata formats and standards .

4. Publication Formats

Making publications accessible in different output formats falls within the scope of ensuring the technical quality of a journal and increases its accessibility.

The most commonly used format for digital text publications is PDF. However, (text) articles can also be published in HTML and XML formats or ePub.

5. Long-Term Archiving

Long-term archiving strategies are crucial for the sustainability of journal operations by ensuring that publications are permanently available.

The Technical Guidance and Requirements by Plan S lists long-term archiving of journal content as a necessary standard. And it is also one of the criteria for the inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

There are various strategies for long-term archiving:

Which strategy the respective journal uses should be documented on its website.

6. Open Data

In the spirit of promoting an open science culture, Diamond Open Access journals should offer or encourage their authors to also make the (primary) research data and/or source code on which a publication is based openly accessible.

In this framework, the journal should adhere to the FAIR Data Principles: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable. The Swiss National Science Foundation or the GO FAIR-Initiativeoffer further explanation of the FAIR data principles.


Sustainability is central to the resilience of a journal's operations. It includes legal, financial and personnel aspects that contribute to the long-term stability and optimisation of journal operations.

1. Digital Sovereignty

The transformation to a digital society and the development of digital infrastructures have so far been controlled primarily by private corporations. The concentration of data infrastructures in the hands of commercial players also affect higher education institutions which rely on these infrastructures without being able to influence them. For higher education institutions as public institutions, it is therefore crucial that they secure a sufficient degree of digital sovereignty over their data and infrastructures. This is possible through open source solutions, the development of institutional data infrastructures and information campaigns to raise awareness.

By ensuring scholar-led governance of a journal, copyright retention for authors, the use of institutional hosting options, opting for non-commercial service providers and open source solutions, editors can contribute to strengthening digital sovereignty.

2. Business Model

The business model of Diamond Open Access journals as scholar-led and community-based publication services is unique insofar as it neither pursues any commercial interests nor does it seek to increase the number of published articles as its mission. Furthermore, Diamond Open Access journals are not financed through the payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs) or subscription fees for readers, but often sustain their operations through a mix of voluntary work, institutional contributions, funding, donations, etc. This presents the journal editors with challenges, but these can be mitigated through robust planning and cost analysis.

A business plan for a scholarly journal lays the foundation for its positioning on the publication market as well as the mid- to long-term development of journal operations. The business plan should cover aspects of strategic and financial planning but als the journal concept and governance. Consideration should also be given to networking activities, communication, and distribution as well as the acquisition of a diverse pool of authors and reviewers.

In order to make the best possible use of existing resources and optimise them, the business plan should also include a market analysis along with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses (internal perspective) as well as opportunities and risks (external perspective) according to a SWOT analysis.

3. Governance and Ownership

As a first step, journals should define the roles of staff and collaborators and their responsibilities in the publication process and give basic thought to the legal issues involved:

  • Who has the overall responsibility and budgetary authority for the journal?
  • Which legal form should the journal have?
  • Which legal steps have to be taken to secure the ownership and naming rights of the journal?
  • Who assumes which role in the editorial process and how much time is spent on each step in the publishing process?
  • Which services are provided externally and is there a contractual agreement about the price, terms and conditions for these services? Is the calculation of costs for these services transparent?

The internal regulations should be documented in the form of the journal's rules of procedure.

Transparency and accountability are basic and important values in scholar-led publishing. According to the DEIA Principles, good governance is equally based on the values of «diversity», «equity», «inclusion» und «accessibility». A «Values and Principles Framework and Assessment Checklist» for journals is available here.

Furthermore, it is important not only to analyse the current situation but also to consider possible future changes:

  • What happens if a person leaves the editorial team?
  • How resilient are the journal operations financially (in case of an expiration of funds or funding cuts)?
  • Is there a procedure in place to deal with an increase or decline in contributions?

When making use of legal advice, it is important to ensure that it is legally binding. Legal departments at higher education institutions and CCDigitalLaw offer advice on legal issues relating to open access publishing.

4. Funding

Funding and fundraising are the major challenges for editors of Diamond Open Access journals. For any journal, it is essential to create an overview of costs incurred (including «hidden» costs such as hosting and volunteer work) and also include the time and effort spent on acquiring funding in the planning of tasks.

The costs are individual for each journal and typically depend on the number of articles per year, the number of employees, the type of hosting and the costs of external services (e.g. for editing, translations, design).

The following items in particular should be included in the cost analysis and calculation:

  • Personnel costs,
  • IT infrastructure (hosting, updates, maintenance),
  • Article-related costs (persistent identifiers, image rights, etc.),
  • Editorial work (internal and external),
  • Marketing and promotion,
  • Office costs,
  • Innovation costs.

Medium-term financial planning should be carried out with the aim of diversifying the funding sources.

Funding options include:

  • Institutional publication funds,
  • Appointment commitments,
  • Research funding organisations,
  • Sponsorship by scientific societies, academies, institutes, etc.,
  • Consortial funding models,
  • Foundations,
  • Donations,
  • Crowdfunding,
  • Advertisements.