Setting up your journal in Open Journal Systems

This page includes several best-practices and guidelines for setting-up an open access journal in Open Journal Systems through SFU Library Digital Publishing.

These best-practices are based on the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing developed by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

For information about applying to have your journal listed in the DOAJ, please see the DOAJ how-to guide and the DOAJ application guide for OJS journals.

For information about getting started with journal publishing at SFU, please see Journal publishing options with SFU Library.

    Access, licensing, and author rights

    Make your journal open access

    SFU Library advocates for open access, as reflected in our strategic values.

    We require that all publications supported by SFU Library Digital Publishing make their work open access. This means that the content is free to read on the open internet, and readers can download, copy, and distribute the content, as long as credit is given to the authors. Readers do not require a subscription or any other form of payment, either personally or through their university or library, to access the content.

    Where suitable, we advocate for the use of Traditional Knowledge Labels when publishing works by Indigenous authors. 

    Your journal should have a clear open access statement on the journal webpage. This can be added to the “About the Journal” field in OJS. The DOAJ how-to guide has a sample open access statement which you can use or adapt for your journal. 

    For more details on the benefits of open access, visit SFU Library’s Scholarly Publishing web pages.

    We also suggest that journals allow the content authors to retain the copyright to their own work, rather than transferring copyright to the journal or publisher. For more details, see author rights policies.

    Creative Commons licensing

    Your journal should publish using  a Creative Commons license which is applied to all content published by the journal. If you choose not to use one of these licenses, you can opt for another type of license with similar conditions. The purpose of these licenses is to describe the ways that the content can be shared, distributed, and reused, without permission from the author or publisher.

    Creative Commons licenses

     Figure 1: Creative Commons Licenses. Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license from Technology Enhanced Learning Blog.

    OJS provides a field for the copyright notice, which would include information about Creative Commons licensing, and author rights. It is also a good practice to include the Creative Commons license, and DOI, on each article published. 

    For more details about Creative Commons licenses for journal publishing, see the post on Radical Access: the SFU Library Scholarly Publishing Blog: CC-What? What's behind the Creative Commons licenses used by OA journals?

    The SFU Copyright Office is also available to help with questions about copyright.

    Author rights policies

    There are two models for author rights:

    • Author retains all copyright: Authors keep the rights to their work, and can use the work in any way they choose. Anyone wishing to reuse the work beyond what is allowed under the Creative Commons license will need to request permission from the author.  

    • Author transfers copyright to the journal publisher: Publishers can do anything with the author's work, and anyone wishing to reuse the work beyond what is allowed under the Creative Commons license will need to request permission from the publisher. 

    At SFU Library we encourage journals to allow authors authors to retain their copyright, and this is the trend in open access publishing. In most cases the journal will ask the author to grant the publisher the right of first publication, meaning that the work cannot have been previously published elsewhere. 

    For information about author rights, please see the PKP School tutorial: Managing author permissions.

    Whichever author rights model and/or Creative Commons license your journal chooses, it needs to be transparent to authors: who owns the work after it is published?

    Details about author rights should be prominently displayed on the journal website, ideally in the Copyright Notice field in OJS. This field may also contain requirements for the following: 

    • Originality of the work (ie that is has not been published elsewhere)
    • Permission for authors to use any third party content
    • Plagiarism and fact-checking policies.

    Additionally, you may ask authors to sign a Publication Agreement which includes any of the above information, as well as any additional policies you would like authors to agree to when publishing the journal. 

    See SFU Library’s sample publishing agreement which you may borrow, adapt, and use for your journal.

    Editorial and peer review

    Editorial board details

    Editorial team members should have clearly defined roles, and each role is responsible for different stages of the process. For an introduction to the editorial process, see the following PKP School tutorials:

    We encourage you to consider the diversity of the board. Scholarly publishing traditionally has not been very diverse or inclusive, and there is a movement to change this. The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications has released a statement of principles that can help guide you.

    The editorial board members names, affiliations, and contact information should be clearly visible on your journal webpage. OJS has fields for you to include information about your editorial board, and information included here will automatically appear on your journal website.

    Peer review policies

    The peer review process is integral to scholarly research; however, not all sections within a journal are peer reviewed (e.g, editorials, letters to the editor). Your policy should specify which sections or article types will be subject to peer review. 

    You will need to decide on the type of peer review your journal will use. For details about the types of peer review models available, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each, please see the PKP School tutorial on The Different Types of Peer Review (Becoming an Editor, Module 7, Unit 1).

    Peer review beyond articles

    Details of your journal’s peer review process should be displayed prominently on the journal website. This might be located in the “About the Journal” section or the “Author Guidelines” (or both).

    Bias in Peer Review

    Diversity and inclusive are important topics in scholarly communication, specifically around peer review. It’s important to ask whose voices are being excluded from scholarship, or in what ways are people/topics being represented.

    In 2018 the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) had a segment featuring Indigenous academics sharing about Western bias within the peer review process, and concerns surrounding citations. Additionally, the Library Publishing Coalition has released an Ethical Framework for Library Publishing that includes a section on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

    Peer review resources

    Information for readers and authors

    Aims and scope

    Your journal website should clearly explain the aims and scope of the journal so that readers are aware of what type of content they can find there, and authors know what types of work might be suitable to submit. This information can be added to the “About the Journal” field in OJS.

    Author guidelines

    For details on author guidelines, see the PKP School tutorial: Developing author guidelines

    Your journal should  have clear style, author, or submission guidelines which are visible on the journal website. These lay out information about font size and style, reference/citation style, document type, and word count. Author guidelines and a submission checklist can be added to the author guidelines in OJS for authors to see prior to submitting their work. 

    Some examples

    Indigenous writing style, and citations

    Indigenous writing guides: These guides have been developed by various higher education institutions. They are aimed at Indigenous students, but are helpful to see non-Western ways of expressing yourself.

    NorQuest College has developed a template for citing Indigenous Elders in APA and MLA, since citation style guides currently provide no guidance for citing their knowledge. 

    Article Processing Charges

    Many open access journals charge Article Processing Charges (APCs) to help offset the publishing costs and as a substitute to subscription fees charged by traditional, closed journals. If you choose to charge an APC for accepted submissions, the fees should be transparent and clearly indicated on the journal website under About the Journal or Author Guidelines.

    For more information see the PKP School tutorial: Author Fees and Article Processing Charges

    Visibility and journal appearance

    Identifiers (ISSN & DOI)

    SFU Library can supply an ISSN for your journal. Once you have published the first issue of your journal, we can also assign DOIs to your articles and set-up your journal to automatically assign DOIs to future articles that are published. OJS has plugins for both CrossRef and DOIs.

    Journal visibility

    It is important to consider how your journal content will be discovered by researchers within and beyond academia. Journals can be promoted through department websites, mailing lists, social media, and word of mouth. The PKP publication Getting Found, Staying Found provides an overview of strategies for making your journal more visible in academic communities and on the web, including making your journal findable in search engines such as Google Scholar, as well as academic databases and indexes.

    Domain Name / URL

    Your journal will be provided with a URL from SFU Library (e.g., If you would like to purchase a custom URL, you can register a unique domain name for an annual fee; You can then redirect your OJS site to the new URL.

    Social media

    Social media can be used to announce new articles and engage with your audience. It’s also an avenue to advertise Board positions and share calls for submissions. You can also create social media guidelines for authors who are interested in sharing their work through their social media accounts.

    Journal directories

    Your journal is more likely to be found and recognized if it is findable in recognized directories of academic journals.

    • The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an authoritative directory of high-quality, fully open, peer reviewed journals, and having your journal included signals that it has met their high standards. 

      • Journals that publish five articles per year and meet the expected standards can apply for inclusion in the DOAJ. Follow the Library Publishing Coalition’s guide to the DOAJ application.

    • Ulrich’s is an authoritative, international directory of more than 30,000 periodicals, including academic journals. Check their FAQs on how to get your journal added

    • PKP Index is a database of articles, books, and conference proceedings using OJS, OMP, and OCS. 

    Library catalogues

    Once your journal has a couple of issues published, contact the Digital Publishing team to discuss how to have it included in the library catalogue.

    Content formats (PDF, HTML, Multimedia)

    Having multiple formats available allows readers to choose what works best for them, with PDF and HTML being the most common. Media should include alt texts, and when appropriate/possible a transcript should be provided for audio.

    Customize your journal's look and feel

    OJS has a number of pre-set “themes” which allow you to quickly change the look and feel of your journal. See this list of sample journals to see the available themes.

    Further customization is possible if you have someone on your team with expertise in HTML and CSS. You can upload your own style sheet to alter the look and feel of your site.

    Other changes to your journal’s appearance, such as changes to the journal’s header, homepage image, etc are available in the website settings in OJS.

    For more info, check out PKP's guide to Designing Your Journal.

    Resources for best practices in open access journal publishing