by John Willinsky & Juan Pablo Alperin, May 2021
The Public Knowledge Project (PKP), has been, by design and since its inception
over two decades ago, developing software that enables scholars from around
the world to professionally peer-review and publish their colleagues’ work without
charging them or the public to read this work. By creating open source (free)
software that distributes the power to participate in scholarly publishing by
organizing and supporting academic journal editing – including the management
of peer review and and production processes – thousands of scholars, many
operating in low-resource environments, have been able to produce professional-
quality academic journals that are free to both authors and readers. As such, PKP
has long been aware of its essential role in supporting OA diamond journals (Open
Access journals without an Article Processing Charges), but The OA Diamond
Journals Study1 published on March 9, 2021, with 971 OJS users among those
surveyed, offers us a rare level of insight into our community, and a clearer sense
of the extent to which PKP has made OA diamond possible for thousands of
journals around the world.
The OA Diamond Journal Study, sponsored by Science Europe and cOAlition S, was
able to survey 1,619 journals in 2020, finding that 60% (971) of these journals use
OJS. OA diamond journals are said to represent “a wide archipelago of relatively
small journals serving diverse communities” (p. 7) that are collectively estimated
to make up “at least 17,000, but likely up to 29,000, OA diamond journals” (p. 47)
from four regions of world (45% in Europe, 25% in Latin America, 16% in Asia, 5%
in the US/Canada) and from across the disciplines (60% HSS, 22% science, 17%
medicine). If the respondents of the survey are seen to be representative of the
estimated minimum 17,000 diamond journals, then the 60 percent use level for OJS
roughly corresponds to PKP’s own count of more than 10,000 active OJS journals.
The study points, as well, to the type and location of the publishers: “Most OA
diamond journals are the sole journal of their publisher or are with a publisher
having just a few journals. Most of these publishers are university-based” (p. 48).
These are the characteristics of PKP’s principal community of users and further
highlight the close relationship between OA diamond journals and journals using
While those who know PKP and the OJS community may have been aware of this
connection, the close to one thousand survey responses from OJS users along
with the report’s unbiased analysis of the context in which they operate has made
three things abundantly clear:
With 60% of the journals using OJS, PKP has been instrumental in making OA
diamond journals a reality.
No other platform or tool, with the exception of email in some contexts, is as widely used as OJS by OA diamond journals for their operations, especially as they grow in size.
No other system has contributed as much to supporting the linguistic or geographic diversity of scholarly publishing as OJS.
As OA diamond journals are APC-free, they can be trusted not to include the so-called predatory journals.
That is, given this role as a key enabler of OA diamond journals, and given other
study findings about the characteristics of this group of journals, the report makes
it clear, in our reading, how PKP, with its multilingual OJS, is contributing to the
healthy intellectual enterprise of OA diamond journals and, as direct consequence,
to greater global participation in research.
In analyzing some of the characteristics of OA diamond journals, the report
indirectly highlights some of the strengths of PKP and OJS that have led to its
popularity among this community, as well as some of the areas where there are
opportunities for PKP to improve its offerings, or to otherwise better communicate
their value to the community. The remainder of this response will therefore focus
on summarizing and responding to various indicators of PKP’s success found in
the study, and subsequently to engaging with the misconceptions and missed
opportunities that we will seek t