Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tasks to do by Christmas

In addition to all of the food, carols, shopping, etc. associated with December, I have a few tasks I'd like to complete for The Canadian Field-Naturalist.  Maybe I'll celebrate each one with a hot gin toddy (I'd heard of this drink but just tried it for the first time last week - it's delicious if you like gin like I do!).  There is danger in making a "to-do" list public because failure to do these items will be very public, but it may be of interest for those of you who wonder what kind of work goes on behind the scenes of a journal in transition.
  • Upload the last of the old CFN content.  I have been uploading all items (articles, notes, book reviews, club reports, etc.) from each issue of CFN going back to volume 117 (2003).  I only have 1.5 issues left to upload.  For each item I enter meta-data (e.g., authors' names and affiliations, abstract, key words), which takes a lot of time but will allow easy searching for content both within the journal website and via Google Scholar.  It's been a pleasure to read through items as I upload them, because there has been some really interesting, important research published in our journal, and it fuels me to know that my effort will allow it to be accessed by more readers once our website goes live.  This research deserves to be read and used.
  • Write subscription renewal letters.  Renewal notices are sent to subscribers after issue number three is mailed, which should be shortly for the latest volume.  Because we now offer online-only and online+print options, we need new forms.  In addition to the format option (online vs print+online), subscription rates also depend on who you are (institution, OFNC member, or an individual subscriber) and where you are (for print subscriptions mailing costs are higher for international than domestic addresses).  My goal is to create renewal forms whose layout make these options as simple to understand as possible.
  • Set up editorial management within the new website.  So far our new website address is a secret.  That's the way I want to keep it while the site is in development.  But the address may be found before we announce it (e.g., by Google automated bots), so I want the site to be able to accept manuscripts that are submitted by authors who find our site serendipitously.  I won't set up all of the fancy editors' and reviewers' tools until the new year, but I at least want submitted manuscripts to go to our editor rather than a digital vacuum of nothingness while our site is still in development.
  • Backup and upgrade our new site software.  This item is somewhat out of my hands.  We pay a company to host the server on which our new journal website resides, and they are the only ones able to upgrade our journal software to a newer version.  We are using Open Journal Systems (OJS) version 2.2.4, which was the most recent stable version available when we set it up, but since then version 2.3.3 has gone from being a "beta" version in development to a "stable" version.  According to the documentation and comments from other journal managers, the new version has some useful tools especially for readers and subscription managers.  Hopefully the upgrade will be done soon.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what the new version can do ... it's like that Christmas present you're dying to open!  When I was a kid it was GI Joe stuff, now it's open access journal software ... all signs point to me getting lamer with age.  Sigh ... time for another hot gin toddy.
May your December be filled with merriment, and perhaps the odd toddy if you are so inclined (my recipe, from the Urban Peasant: gin + hot water + cinnamon + lemon juice + honey)!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can a journal blog? Yes!

Our natural history journal is undergoing some major changes.  Most of these changes have been behind closed doors, though, because they are still in progress.  When I talk to naturalists and researchers about these changes they tend to be excited and tell me things like "That's great news - I'll tell my friends," "There are plenty of people who will be very happy to hear about this," or "Sir, could you please stop talking about natural history and just place your order," depending on the situation.

This blog is intended to let you know about changes we're making to our journal, along with other matters related to our journal and natural history in Canada.  I anticipate this will be of interest not only to natural history enthusiasts (whether you are amateur birdwatchers, professional biologists, or whatever else), but also people interested in the process of publication.  What behind-the-scenes processes underlie changes at an academic journal that is run by a non-profit organization (i.e., a bunch of committed volunteers)?  The vast majority of journal publishing organizations are small like us, publishing only one or a few journals (Morris 2007).  Many people in small non-profit organizations feel intimidated by the challenges of publication in the new online, competitive environment.  I too am intimidated by these challenges, but I'm committed to overcoming them and invite you to read along and find out what kind of challenges we've faced and how we've dealt with them.

Our journal has published natural history research continuously since 1880.  This old dog is about to learn some new tricks.  I hope you'll follow along and learn about our successes and failures as we navigate the new online publishing world.

Morris S (2007) Mapping the journal publishing landscape: how much do we know? Learned Publishing 20:299-310.