I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use?

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After launching Flockademic, a service to help researchers start alternatives to the traditional publishers, one of the most frequent questions I received was: how is it different from Open Journal Systems, the Open Science Framework, arXiv, and other initiatives?

Sometimes it’s easiest to understand a project by comparing it to others. So with that in mind: let’s do a comparison.

Some caveats

Before embarking on the comparison, it would be good to get some disclaimers out of the way.

The first is that Flockademic is only a week old and hence still very simple. In other words: at the time of writing, if you need specific features (e.g. support for peer review, minting DOIs, etc.), you are likely to be better off with one of the other projects. Do share what features those are, though, so their implementation can be prioritised for Flockademic.

What this means for this comparison is that I will focus on the main philosophical differences, i.e. in which areas will these projects continue to differ in the future.

Secondly, this comparison is not exhaustive. It is restricted to a few large and similar projects, but if you feel that an important one is missing: let me know.

And finally, although I will try hard to focus on objective facts, I’m obviously viewing the world through the glasses of the founder of Flockademic, so take it with a grain of salt.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Open Journal Systems

Open Journal Systems is software that supports the publishing of scholarly journals. There are many reasons to use OJS when considering starting a journal:

  • You want full control over the journal software, its servers, etc.
  • You have experience with OJS, which you want to leverage.
  • You prefer a tried and tested solution that has stood the test of time, with many features that are sure to support exactly the workflow you prefer.

In other words: it’s a great choice with which it’s hard to go wrong. That said, if the following are true for you, you might want to consider giving Flockademic a try:

  • You do not have the time and/or expertise to set up and maintain an instance of OJS, nor the money to pay someone else to do it.
  • You would like to keep it simple: you want to have something set up in five minutes.
  • You want to automatically take advantage of future updates without extra effort on your part.

(The above comparison also largely applies to most other open source, self-hosted publishing platforms, such as Janeway, PubPub, PubSweet, and Ambra.)

Try Open Journal Systems | Try Flockademic

OSF Preprints

Philosophically, OSF Preprints is probably closest to Flockademic: it tries to transfer the success of arXiv to other disciplines by providing them with preprint servers, and supposedly is working on facilitating peer review as well. It is the driving force behind most of the recently launched preprint servers, so I’m a fan. Using OSF Preprints is a no-brainer if:

  • You want to tailor the preprint server’s brand to your field.
  • You need personal support in setting it up.
  • Research in your field is typically associated with many other artefacts that you would like to make public, such as data or code.

In other words, it’s fantastic for ambitious, broad-scoped initiatives to introduce preprint workflows to a discipline.

Flockademic, on the other hand, aims to support you when:

  • You are looking to start an experimental initiative with low up-front investment of effort.
  • You prefer to be able to set everything up by yourself, in minutes.

Try OSF Preprints | Try Flockademic


arXiv is the wildly successful preprint server for disciplines such as physics and mathematics. One question I’ve received is: why would I use Flockademic if I can simply use arXiv? The answer is simple: you don’t!

If there are successful initiatives in your discipline, by all means: use them, support them, promote them. Tell your fellow researchers about them, stimulate them to submit their preprints there.

However, if nothing like arXiv exists for your discipline, that’s where Flockademic comes in. Be the change you want to see: start your own! There’s no need for you to convince a discipline as broad as physics that everyone should publish their preprints. You can start a preprint journal with as limited a scope as you want. If you can convince just a few of your colleagues to publish their preprints there — or even: if only you yourself post your preprints — you are already contributing to the greater movement to make more research openly available.

Try arXiv | Try Flockademic


There are many services that let you start your own journal: Scholastica, Veruscript, Science.ai, Uniquity Press, Copernicus, Highwire Press, …

They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Reasons to use one of them might include:

  • You want to earn money with your journal.
  • You want to provide typesetting services / print editions / proofreading services / etc.
  • You need personal support.

If those are your requirements, you will surely be able to find a service that satisfies your wishes. You might want to consider Flockademic, however, if the below statements hold true:

  • You want to be able to set up the journal completely independently, in minutes.
  • You want its infrastructure to be open source, and run by a non-profit.
  • You do not want to charge publication fees.

Try Scholastica | Try Flockademic

Final words

It’s important to stress that the projects above are all great initiatives that all have their place. In fact, most of them have similar ideas about what they want the world to look like; they are merely taking different routes to get us there. Thus, I prefer to look at all these projects as complimentary, rather than as competitive.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that it does not hurt to have multiple projects striving to achieve similar goals. So while comparing them to each other helps in understanding them, there is an infinite number of ways in which projects can be executed, and just as many ways to succeed (or not).

Flockademic is merely giving us another shot at achieving Fair Open Access, and I hope you will support it as such.

Flockademic is an effort to support researchers in opening up access to academic articles. And you can join!

I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use? was originally published in Flockademic on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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