Confessions of an open access editor

Ideogram, my favourite SCRIPTed cover

Since 2004 I have been the technical editor of SCRIPTed, the open access journal of Law and Technology published by the SCRIPT Centre in Edinburgh. This involvement has survived all other Edinburgh-related commitments, and has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my academic life. Every four months I sit down and do nothing but edit the articles and put them online. The end result is that I get a four-monthly jolt of joy when each issue goes live that gives me a small idea of what it must be to be a father.

Talk of paternity is not rare when it comes to open access, in great part it is a labour of love. For 8 years SCRIPTed has been made possible by a rare combination of vision, talent and funding. In 2003 Professors Lilian Edwards and Graeme Laurie had the idea of producing an online journal as part of the remit of the SCRIPT Centre, following the North American publishing model of employing students as editors. This was a visionary decision that allowed SCRIPTed to gain longevity, as a large part of the work was performed by volunteers. This is a noble tradition that is common in legal establishments in the United States, and has been performed by the likes of President Obama and Justice Elena Kagan.

While the journal has had immense support from the funding side and is relatively cheap to produce, I have always felt that innovative projects such as these seemed to be ignored by mainstream academia. As on online-only publication, we had to contend with an idea that an online journal is simply not the same as a printed journal. Similarly, while I dedicated countless hours to the journal, I always felt that there seemed to be little official recognition to the work, as it did not fall easily into any normal bead counting categories. Still, the work was very rewarding in its own right, and the back catalogue of excellent articles is a testament to all of the hard work of a large legion of editors that have put a lot of effort into the journal.

All things need to evolve, and that is why we have now moved SCRIPTed outside of the University of Edinburgh servers, and created one of the first WordPress-based journals (as far as I know). While there are lots of open source journal interfaces out there, I felt that WordPress has evolved enough to allow a full migration. We will be moving our back catalogue to the new site during the next few months.

Sustainability is still an important question in open access journal, and hopefully we will continue to be able to support SCRIPTed for many years to come.

So if you do not know what to do today, why not go to SCRIPTed and browse our archive?

ETA: Claudio Ruiz has directed me to this great WordPress guide for open access journals (in Spanish).

ETA 2: There is a very interesting discussion on open access publishing in The Guardian.

8 thoughts on “Confessions of an open access editor

  1. ¿Sería una mala idea empezar o tener una versión en español de SCRIPT-ed? Así llamaríamos todavía más la atención a temas de leyes y tecnología a Latinoamérica, donde se necesita empezar a hablar del tema.

    :D

    • Sería una excelente idea, pero lo veo poco probable a menos que pueda tener mucha ayuda, por ejemplo, tener editores voluntarios de una escuela de derecho.

      Por ahora se pueden enviar artículos en español.

  2. Interested to hear that you are moving to WordPress. I started http://ontogenesis.knowledgeblog.org out of frustration with traditional book publishing which is slow, expensive and hardwork compared to using WordPress. Since, then, we have branched out a bit, including http://bio-ontologies.knowledgeblog.org which is acting an archive for the papers from a workshop; in short, it's effectively a journal, albeit with one issue a year. Your content goes back further than ours, and your theme is much better!

    I'd be very interested to hear of your experiences with WordPress. We are trying to add additional function for scientific (or academic in general) publishing. We've good support for reference list generation (kcite) and presentation now, another tool for doing maths display (mathjax-latex), and qualified support for latex import (latextowordpress); obviously some of these are more discipline specific than others. Would be useful to hear of your experiences in getting WordPress ready for scriptED

    • Hi Phil,

      The main problem I've had so far is time, I have started moving content from our old website to the new one, but it will take some time.

      So far I'm quite happy with the results, the articles look good with minimum work, and copying and pasting directly from Word is also working well. I will only be able to tell you how things are going once we publish more content.

  3. Interesting. I found cutting and pasting from word to be a bit of a disaster. We've used the Word "publish to blog" features — hopefully they will remain there in future. It works with figures and preserves most of the formatting; not always a virtue.

    Time, yes. I know that problem.

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