The Open Library of Humanities journal’s (OLHJ) main editorial team comprises dedicated editorial staff working for the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) and employed by Birkbeck, University of London. Additional guest editors are invited to edit curated Special Collections of articles for the journal. All OLH editorial staff are academically trained, having received PhDs in humanities disciplines, and editors undergo a rigorous interview process to ensure that the highest editorial standards are maintained for the journal. Special Collection editors, who function as guest editors, must also undergo a thorough application process set by the OLH editorial team whereby they submit a Special Collection proposal and academic CVs for the proposed Special Collection editors (see the ‘Special Collections’ section below). The OLH supports professional development training for PhD students studying within the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE), and CHASE interns on placement with the OLH may also, on occasion, support OLH editorial staff preparing articles for publication. These interns, paid by CHASE, are similarly required to complete a thorough training process before undertaking any editorial duties.
The journal’s Editor-in-Chief is a member of the OLH team and has overall responsibility for the publishing activity of OLHJ. The Managing Editor, also employed by OLH, is responsible for ensuring that all articles and Special Collections are published in a timely fashion and meet the academic standards fit for publication. The Managing Editor is further assisted by OLH-employed Editors, who oversee each article’s individual progress through the journal’s submission system and are responsible for liaising with Special Collection editors, authors, passing article manuscripts to typesetting and for publishing articles when they are ready to be published.
Occasionally, OLH editorial staff will be required to facilitate the peer review process for articles where the editor(s) of the Special Collection have competing or conflicting interests with the article that would otherwise prevent them from facilitating the peer review process. OLH editorial staff also perform a minimum of one copyediting round for each article to ensure they are ready for production; where non-English language articles are to be published, OLH editorial staff source external copyeditors for these articles.
The OLHJ editorial team may desk reject articles that have been submitted to the journal, provided there is an adequate reason as to why the article is not suitable for the specified Special Collection or is unrelated to the journal’s focus and scope. The OLHJ accepts articles for Special Collections only; the journal is not currently open to general submissions. Special Collection editor(s) oversee articles submitted to their Special Collection, including the peer review process for each article, and produce a draft decision based on at least two double-anonymous peer review reports (see the ‘Peer Review Process’ section below). A member of the
If a more complex situation arises, such as an article containing problematic content that may not be suitable for publication in OLHJ , the OLHJ editorial team will meet and reach a decision on the appropriate course of action to be taken for the article, in line with guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). This applies both pre- and post-publication. Special Collection editor(s) and, if necessary, the author, will be informed of the outcome of the meeting and subsequent actions.
OLHJ cultivates a broad and experienced Academic Steering and Advisory Committee that contains members from across different nations, academic institutions, genders and demographics. Full consent must be obtained by the OLHJ editorial team from potential committee members before they are included on the committee itself. The OLHJ editorial team may consult these academics whenever there is a subject-specific issue that needs expert input from someone with knowledge of that field of research.
OLHJ is committed to ensuring that the journal’s articles, Special Collections, editors and advisors are international, with a wide range of expertise in various subject areas within the humanities. Potential committee members are approached by the OLHJ editorial team while keeping this diversity in mind.
Article submissions to OLHJ are made by the author to active Special Collections. Editorial pieces, such as introductions to Special Collections, generally do not need to be peer reviewed for OLHJ but all research articles must pass the peer review process.
Upon submission, the article is assigned to the corresponding Special Collection editor(s) and OLHJ editorial staff members. It is assessed to make sure that it is an expected submission to the Special Collection and that it is of sufficient academic quality to be sent out for peer review. Upon passing these checks, either a member of the OLHJ editorial team or the Special Collection editor(s) will progress the article to peer review.
OLHJ uses the double-anonymous peer review process for all research articles. This means that the peer reviewer is not sent any identifying information about the author on the manuscript that they review. Similarly, the author cannot see any identifying information about the peer reviewer. All manuscripts are screened by the Special Collection editors and identifying information is removed prior to the manuscript being sent to peer review. Along with OLHJ’s ‘Guidance for Peer Reviewers’ (see below section), reviewers should receive any necessary anonymised manuscript and figure/table files in order to undertake their review. Special Collection editors and OLHJ editorial team members also ensure that any returned peer review reports do not contain any information that could identify the peer reviewer. If such information is present, the peer review reports may be modified as sparingly as possible to remove this information from the author’s view. The original peer review report remains in OLHJ’s submission and review system to protect the integrity of the peer review process.
All research articles must pass the peer review process with at least two double-anonymous peer review reports of ‘Accept Without Revisions’ or ‘Minor Revisions’, with all necessary revisions made. Articles with a decision of ‘Major Revisions’ must be sent for another round of peer review once revisions have been completed, and two further peer review reports must be returned before another editorial judgement can be made. The same peer reviewers from the first round of review may be approached and offered the opportunity to re-review the article to ensure that their concerns have been satisfactorily addressed.
Special Collection editors manage the peer review process for OLHJ’s Special Collections, with support and oversight provided by the OLH editorial team, unless there is a competing or conflicting interest that would prevent them from doing so. An example of this might be if the article is authored by a Special Collection editor, which would mean that the OLHJ editorial team would facilitate the peer review process. OLHJ editorial team members do, however, approve any draft decisions that a Special Collection editor makes for article acceptance or further revisions following the receipt of two peer review reports. This is to ensure that the best standards of peer review and editorial judgement are being maintained.
Peer reviewers are identified and approached to review OLHJ articles by Special Collection editors, whose specialism will enable them to source the most fitting researchers to provide informed and thorough peer review reports. The OLHJ editorial team advises Special Collection editors on liaising with peer reviewers and ensuring that all reviewers upload their reviews to the OLHJ’s electronic publishing platform, Janeway. Reviewers’ contact details are held on the system for the purposes of completing their peer review; in line with GDPR legislation the OLH only collects the data that is required to provide its publishing services to authors, editors, and reviewers. These details may be removed from Janeway’s database at the reviewer’s request at any time. It is also advised that potential peer reviewers must have a recent publishing record of research that is relevant to the article that is to be reviewed, and that they work for, or are affiliated with, a verifiable academic institution or professional organisation that is relevant to the field of research.
When accepting their review task peer reviewers must declare if they have any association with, or can identify the author of, the supplied manuscript in line with the OLH’s policy ‘Responsibilities of Reviewers’. If this is the case, another peer reviewer must be sought by the Special Collection editors. If the Special Collection’s editors struggle to find suitable peer reviewers, the OLHJ editorial team may assist by suggesting other relevant reviewers. Relevant member(s) of the OLHJ’s Advisory Committee may also be approached, if required, to suggest potential reviewers. It is OLHJ’s policy for Special Collection editors not to ask authors for peer reviewer suggestions, or to use peer reviewer suggestions offered by the author, which is considered a manipulation of the peer review process. If this practice occurs, such peer review reports will be disregarded as biased and another peer reviewer should be sourced by the Special Collection editors.
It is not in the remit of Special Collection editors or OLHJ editorial staff to train peer reviewers in how to offer constructive and fair feedback on articles. However, it is important to ensure that reports made by peer reviewers are helpful to the author. Special Collection editors will assess whether the peer review reports they receive can provide an adequate base on which to make their decisions. OLH has a comprehensive ‘Publication Ethics and Malpractice Statement’ that contains more detail of best practice for peer reviewers, under the section ‘Responsibilities of Reviewers’.
Peer review reports for OLHJ can give one of the following recommendations: ‘Reject’ the article, request ‘Minor Revisions’ or ‘Major Revisions’ to be made to the article, or to ‘Accept Without Revisions’. In the case of each review recommendation, the rationale of the decision should be noted clearly, with examples to show, for instance, fundamental problems that cannot be resolved through major revisions, suggested minor adjustments to parts of the author’s argument, or further relevant research that the author should engage with and cite.
While Special Collection editors can amend the peer review report’s text to remove identifying information, the recommendation provided by the peer reviewer (such as ‘Accept Without Revisions’, ‘Minor Revisions’, ‘Reject’, and so on) cannot be altered once it has been logged on the OLHJ’s journal system. For example, a recommendation of ‘Minor Revisions’ given by a peer reviewer cannot be changed by any journal editors and will remain permanently recorded on OLHJ’s journal system, Janeway. If a peer review report is inadequate or jeopardises the double-anonymous review process, Special Collection editors and the OLHJ editorial team will approach another peer reviewer and request a separate and additional review of the article.
According to its double-anonymous peer review policy, the OLHJ does not publish peer review reports alongside articles, or the names of the peer reviewers who have undertaken review of the article. Anonymised peer review data is held securely and privately in the journal’s publishing platform for the author to access whenever they choose to do so.
OLHJ is owned and managed by the OLH, a not-for-profit organisation based at Birkbeck, University of London and funded by more than 340 university and public libraries worldwide. The OLH was founded in 2013 as a scholar-led movement bringing together academics, librarians, publishers, and digital publishing technology experts to make open access publishing fairer and more affordable. The OLH held charitable status under UK law until 2022 when it merged with Birkbeck, University of London; an exempt charity under the terms of the Charities Act 2011 (Birkbeck is a higher education institution incorporated by Royal Charter (England/Wales), number RC000048).
As a diamond open access publisher, the OLH funds the publishing activities of OLHJ in perpetuity without asking for Article Processing Charges (APCs) from authors. The OLHJ’s main editorial team members are employed by Birkbeck, University of London as part of the OLH publishing team; the journal’s publishing platform Janeway is also actively developed and supported by OLH’s dedicated technical team, also employed by Birkbeck, University of London.. Consequently, OLHJ is well supported and championed by OLH.
OLHJ’s journal structure consists of: i) a team of dedicated journal staff employed by OLH (the OLHJ editorial team); ii) Special Collection editors/editorial teams (guest editors who apply to curate Special Collections); and iii) OLHJ’s Academic Steering and Advisory Committee, which features a roster of respected and knowledgeable academics and researchers in the humanities. The journal’s editorial board can be found on the OLHJ website; however, Special Collection editors are not listed on the journal’s masthead and are instead credited in the front matter of their own Special Collection.
The OLHJ editorial team approaches all prospective members of the Academic Steering and Advisory Committee to ask whether they would be willing to be a part of the committee. On selection, special attention is paid to their research activity, contribution to the field, and standing in their academic institution. If the prospective committee member agrees to sit on OLHJ’s committee, they will be listed on OLHJ’s editorial team page and may be asked to assist with their academic expertise, for example, they might be called upon for advice on complex editorial decisions, sourcing peer reviewers, checking the soundness of argument of specific articles should a problem be identified, or advocating for OLHJ. Membership of the OLHJ Academic Steering and Advisory Committee is considered to be ongoing, without a set term, until a member is no longer able to continue their position and wishes to step down from the committee.
OLHJ is funded by OLH’s Library Partnership Subsidy model, which shares financial resources for article processing charges and editorial staff costs between all OLH published journals. There are no author or reader facing charges for publishing or accessing articles published in OLHJ. Further information on the journal’s funding model can be found on the journal’s ‘About’ page.
OLHJ does not permit any advertising on the journal’s website and will never consider requests of any kind from other parties wishing to advertise in the journal or on its webpages.
OLH employs a member of staff—the Marketing Officer—to oversee the marketing activities of the publisher, which in turn influences the reach of and interest in OLH’s journals. OLH’s Marketing Officer shares information about OLH and its journals, such as a regular blog and news of recently published articles and issues, on the publisher’s website and on its official social media accounts. Some campaigns, for example the open call for OLHJ’s Special Collections, are targeted at prospective guest editors of OLHJ Special Collections. The Marketing Officer does not, however, actively target authors to solicit manuscript submissions.
OLHJ Special Collection editors are encouraged to share a call for papers for their Special Collection, which is directly targeted at relevant scholars who may wish to submit to the journal. The intent of this activity is to encourage the submission of potential articles to specific OLHJ Special Collections. Such calls for Special Collections are checked by the OLHJ editorial team, who ensure that they contain accurate and truthful information about the journal and the proposed collection. They are issued appropriately: shared organically via social media or sent via established mailing lists/personal networks to relevant scholars.
All marketing activities undertaken by OLH’s Marketing Officer and OLHJ Special Collection editors in no way affect the editorial decisions of the journal, which are bound by robust editorial policies such as its double-anonymous ‘Peer Review Process’ (see above).
OLHJ is funded by OLH’s Library Partnership Subsidy model and does not generate any additional streams of revenue.
OLHJ does not publish preprints. The journal may consider articles based on work that has already been made openly available as a preprint, if the research is suitable to a specific Special Collection. Such submissions must make this clear to Special Collection editors prior to submission and in the submission itself the author must clearly state where the preprint exists and how their research has evolved/differs from it. The article must, however, successfully pass through the journal’s double-anonymous peer review process before being published. OLHJ’s remit is to publish original research that has not been previously published in another journal.
OLHJ operates a zero tolerance policy of abusive or inappropriate behaviour. Anyone participating in the publishing workflow of OLHJ should not, under any circumstances, be abusive or behave inappropriately towards peer reviewers, authors, or other members of the OLHJ editorial team. The publisher’s ‘Publication Ethics and Malpractice Statement’ contains further information on the expected responsibilities and conduct of all participants in the journal’s workflow.
If an author, editor or reviewer has any concerns about the conduct of Special Collection editors at OLHJ, they are asked to contact the OLHJ editorial team via the journal’s ‘Contact’ page form. Complaints regarding members of the OLHJ editorial team should be raised directly with the publisher, OLH. As per the OLH’s ‘Publication Ethics and Malpractice Statement’, the publisher is responsible for dealing swiftly and ethically with allegations of editorial misconduct, plagiarism, or any other complaints related to the fraudulent publication of an article.
OLHJ solely publishes Special Collections and is not currently open to general submissions. All articles in OLHJ Special Collections are published on a rolling basis, which means that they are published as and when they have passed through the publishing workflow. OLHJ articles also sit within the journal’s current Volume/Issue at the time of publication. The journal’s Issue number changes twice a year and its Volume number increments annually.
Editors must apply to edit an OLHJ Special Collection by submitting a collection proposal and the academic CVs of the proposing editors to the OLHJ editorial team. This proposal is assessed by the OLHJ editorial team and a decision is made as to whether the collection will be published pending further revisions, or whether it will not be published. If accepted, the Special Collection’s editor(s) will be onboarded to the journal by the OLHJ editorial team and the collection may begin the publishing process according to the agreed timeframes.
OLHJ is committed to ensuring that its Special Collections are safeguarded against malpractice such as citation cartels (groups of researchers agreeing to cite one another’s work), undisclosed competing interests, peer review fraud and identity theft, in line with the best practice guidelines by COPE. OLHJ regularly reviews its own Special Collections processes to ensure it is compliant. The journal subjects all Special Collection proposals to rigorous scrutiny: OLHJ’s editorial team checks the proposing editor(s), their affiliation(s), and academic record alongside the scholarly content of their proposed collection before making a final judgement on whether to proceed with the collection.
OLHJ uses a ‘draft decision’ system to screen all submitted research articles before they are revised, rejected, or accepted into the journal. This screening process allows the OLHJ Editorial Team to scrutinise the content, quality and reliability of the peer review reports and, where further investigation is required, the credentials of the reviewers who have supplied them before any draft editorial decision is accepted as final. The OLHJ Editorial Team also provides ongoing editorial scrutiny of the submission and review processes to monitor and detect any activity that might be considered malpractice.
If a draft decision is made on the basis of inadequate peer review reports, or if activity is detected within the peer reviewing process that amounts to malpractice by individual reviewers, the OLHJ Editorial Team will immediately contact the editors of the Special Collection and request that alternative peer reviewers are sourced and that the problematic report is disregarded. If any reviewer has undisclosed competing interests that can be clearly evidenced, the OLHJ Editorial Team will again ask the Special Collection Editor(s) to source another peer reviewer for the article and to ensure that the problematic report is disregarded.
If the OLHJ Editorial Team believes that the malpractice with the review process of a Special Collection constitutes a wider abuse of the publishing process, such as a citation cartel or widespread citation manipulation, the team will assume control of the Special Collection from its editors, close it to any new submissions, and contact the submitting authors involved. The OLHJ Editorial Team will then source new peer reviewers where necessary, and will solely oversee the review process and publication of articles remaining in the journal’s workflow. The team may, should fewer than three published articles sit within the collection, formally remove it from the journal’s Special Collections, whereupon any of its existing published articles will sit within OLHJ’s Issue and Volume at the time of publication only.
Any OLHJ Special Collection articles that are found to have been published with malpractice evident at the peer review stage will be subject to OLH’s ‘Ethics Policies’ for corrections, retractions and removals.
For further information on OLHJ Special Collections, including the application form, please see the journal’s dedicated ‘Special Collections’ information page.