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Queen’s University Library collaborates on innovative journal

Publication of new mathematical journal is part of the library's ongoing efforts to leverage digital opportunities to advance innovative, cost-effective scholarly communications models.

A new journal in mathematics has been launched with the support of Queen’s University Library.

The journal by Timothy Gowers (University of Cambridge) and Dan Kral (University of Warwick), called Advances in Combinatorics, is an overlay journal, built entirely on articles contained in the arXiv repository.  It is free to read and will not charge authors to publish. The relatively low costs of running the journal are being covered by Queen’s University Library, which is also providing administrative support.

Queen’s University Library was very keen to participate in the launch of the journal, as part of its efforts to leverage digital opportunities to advance innovative, cost-effective scholarly communications models. Technological changes have impacted radically how scholarly research is conducted and disseminated. Yet scholarly publishing continues to follow models that were conceived in the print era. Along with provincial, national, and international partners, the library is working to develop a truly global knowledge commons.

“As libraries, we need to nurture and invest in new models that will contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive system for research communications,” says Martha Whitehead, Vice-Provost (Digital Planning) and University Librarian at Queen’s. “We are delighted to be able to support this innovative approach to journal publishing.”

When Ms. Whitehead approached the Department of Mathematics and Statistics about the project, there was immediate strong interest.

“This initiative goes a long way to solving the difficult problem of allowing scholars, in a sustainable way, to access the work of others and publish their own work in peer reviewed journals without the high costs of commercial publishers,” says James A. Mingo, a professor and head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Queen’s is a member of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), which is actively promoting initiatives such as this one. It was COAR’s Executive Director, Kathleen Shearer, who put Timothy Gowers in touch with Martha Whitehead. COAR is particularly interested in the model offered by the journal, as it uses overlay services on top of repositories, a model that could eventually be generalized beyond arXiv.

“This aligns really well with our vision for next generation repositories,” says Ms. Shearer, “on top of which we can build services such as peer review.”

According to the journal’s founder, Dr. Gowers, research professor at the University of Cambridge, Advances in Combinatorics was created in order to “give people the option... to submit to a journal that is not complicit in a system that uses its monopoly power to ruthlessly squeeze library budgets.”

Raising awareness of the challenges with prevalent publishing models is something Queen’s University Library has been working on for several years. The extreme profit-seeking of some of the commercial publishers is stretching library budgets to the limit. In addition, it has created significant barriers in access to research and – with the advent of article processing charges (APCs) – it is exacerbating inequalities in researchers' ability to publish.

Advances in Combinatorics plans to set a high bar for acceptance. Currently there are no non-commercial publishing venues that cater for combinatorics articles at the level envisaged. The aim is to offer an ethical alternative by launching a journal that publishes high-quality papers, but does not charge article publishing fees to authors or exorbitant journal subscription fees to libraries.

At Queen’s, this project supports the principle of giving VOICE to research, as articulated this past year by the Digital Scholarly Record Working Group. VOICE stands for Value, Openness, Inclusivity, Collaborative Platforms, and Engaged Researchers.

For further information, see the Innovation page of Queen’s University Library’s Information Resources Strategy website.