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Founding an Open Access journal

A call for editors and research on funding. We wanted to found an open access journal: This is what we learned.

In February 2021, we – a group of Germany based PhD-students from the Humanities & Social Sciences – got together to discuss the idea of founding a digital open access journal. In the beginning, with our academic backgrounds being as diverse as literature, media studies, and anthropology, we struggled  to first establish common ground since we didn’t know each other from before too well. This was an experiment, for sure. There was an idea and a title: Organize. A Journal of Social Change & Languages. Other than that, we had no shared professional experience that we could build this founding process on. So, we sat in front of our computer screens in different cities in Germany and started talking about our time at university, our Ph.D. projects, future plans and ideas. 

While Organize hasn’t turned into a journal, we’d still like to share some of our experiences with you we encountered along the way. 

Get organised. Define the subject

One of our biggest challenges from the get-go was to translate our ideas for the journal into a shared language, starting off around keywords. We loosely followed the subtitles “social change” and “languages” and each drafted a short text, using a shared online document. This document provided easy access for everyone and allowed others to comment and edit the text simultaneously. It did help us to bridge the spatial distance and varying schedules. We also kept minutes of our last meetings in another shared document. We generally communicated via a messaging app for small updates and questions. All these steps helped us organize our thoughts.  

After we had spelled out our general ideas for the journal, we met again and talked it through. By then, we had added about three new, more or less ‘concrete’ keywords to our list that should define our journal: Solidarites, classism/class, culture and cultural globalization. We realized that this would become a much longer road than anticipated. But it led to the next section: Who would be the intended audience of our journal? 

Think with your audience in mind

From our education in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, we vaguely knew that journals often were made by people at university institutes. Staff, funding, and the journal’s subject were tied to the people employed at a certain institution. How could that have helped us? Our plans for the journal were as open as:  

“As social sciences, in general, can lead the way forward in using tools to reduce structural injustices, inequalities, and exclusions. The journal asks contributors: how do people, genres, media and practices cultivate solidarities across diverse values and disciplinary, geopolitical, spatial, linguistic, epistemological, methodological, and other boundaries?” 

“Classism aims against precariously, under- and unemployed, low-income, and unhoused people. When we talk about classism and class, we often focus on the image of white cis-male workers. In reality, many transgender people, single mothers, or people who experience racism are affected by classism. Language, understandably, plays a significant role here …” 

“… [C]ultural mobility as an extension of cultural globalization accounts for how different cultures communicate with one another through cultural products that move from one nation and state to another, and how cultural globalization and mobility fill the gap between nations and states. Considering a wide range of studies, such as cultural studies, globalization studies, mobility studies, and comparative studies among other, the importance of culture as one of the main themes in Organize is to bridge the gap between social activists, artists, academics and society.”

Notes from our shared document, 2021

However, how to translate these thoughts into a tailored subject for an entire periodical academic journal? What we learned during our meetings was to listen to one another. Bundle our differences. Build on one another’s ideas and suggestions.   

After some months had passed, we decided to try writing-in-team-strategies. We split the group into two and met twice, working closely on the text that should become our mission statement. We found both concreteness as well as a possible audience by connecting the dots, moving away from big open keywords to more concrete questions. We located the need for solidarities within academia itself. We directed our criticism towards an exhilarating trend of project-based, third-party funded research over the last decades. We pointed out that academic careers today have become ever more constrained by grant writing skills geared towards attaining financial backing. This circumstance, combined with other issues, is creating an ever-intensifying research culture of fierce competition and constant time pressure. 

This development puts an even larger burden on people who are not even given a chance to develop their research topics and skills. Whose projects in later stages of their always-on-the-verge-of-crumbling-or-success “career” are sidelined due to the inadequate number of prior funding secured, the institutional and geographic location they are applying from and their project’s “unprofitability”. Overall research practices are limited to those easily evaluated and controlled by funding partners, or which yield a marketable product. Yet, lately, academics have also begun to organize in solidarity, fighting a system that’s long been broken. 

The aim with Organize was to strengthen solidarities, mapping and enhancing equitable supportive relationalities. Fostering bonds and unities across multifold divides. We saw solidarities as a space to rethink and reconfigure taken-for-granted concepts and practices in dire need to be infused with a drive for social justice on a planetary space and across beings. We wanted to publish scholarly and artistic research focusing on acts in solidarity within the Humanities and Social Sciences. Organize would have been dedicated to publishing articles, investigating how evermore mobile forms of cultural exchanges, intersecting with race, class, gender, and belief, can sharpen our understanding of how to organize in solidarity.

Secure the project. Find funding

Perhaps, it was mostly time constraints and a lack of funding that caused an up-end of the project for now. But before we conclude, let us give you some ideas where to get funding for your open access journal. 

Last but not least, make a budget list for the various tasks it takes to run a journal: editors and other staff, hosting costs, etc. In Germany, the Fokusgruppe scholar-led.network advocates for independent, non-profit open access. Feel free to reach out to them for further questions around funding. 

Troels Andersen, Naghmeh Esmaeilpour, Eileen Jahn, Jonas Mirbeth

The (former) Editorial Collective