Journal Observatory

Toward systematic high-quality information on scholarly communication platforms

The scientific community is quickly becoming more transparent in research. Scientific publications are becoming more and more openly accessible but openness should also extend to peer review, preprinting, preregistration, data sharing, metadata availability, and related issues.

Research funders and other stakeholders are putting a significant effort into promoting open science practices in scholarly communication. But there is a lack of high-quality infrastructure that provides information on the openness, policies and procedures of scholarly journals and other publication outlets. Consequently, it can be challenging to answer questions like: how do journals organise quality assurance and peer review? How do journals support open access publishing? How do journals or preprint servers support preregistration, preprinting, and data sharing? How diverse are the editorial teams of journals?

This information can be crucial to multiple stakeholders:


Researchers need this information to decide which journals to engage with as reader, author, reviewer, or editor.


Publishers need this information to advertise the distinctive features of their journals, to demonstrate the investments they make in their journals, and to attract readers, authors, reviewers, and editors.

Funders, research institutions and libraries

Funders, research institutions and libraries need this information to inform negotiations with publishers, to support the development of publication policies, and to assess and reward the compliance with these policies.

All stakeholders

All stakeholders will benefit from high-quality information to explore, assess and develop novel publication and review models.

The current landscape, and its shortcomings

There are numerous initiatives and platforms providing some part of the puzzle, but information is scattered, incomplete, and difficult to compare. For example, tools and databases are available that help researchers understand how to make their research openly accessible (DOAJ), whether their work can be posted in a repository or on a preprint server (Sherpa Romeo), how to ensure compliance with funder requirements (Plan S Journal Checker Tool), and how to pick a publication platform that offers particular peer review approaches (Transpose), open science practices (TOP factor), or that is considered to have a sufficiently high citation impact (Journal Citation Reports).

Additionally, the landscape of tools and databases has become almost as complex as the landscape of scholarly communication itself. Given this complexity, it seems unrealistic to expect stakeholders to know which tools or databases to use to obtain specific information.

As new models of publishing such as Publish-Review-Curate, publication as you go, preprint review and others emerge, distinct publishing functions like dissemination and evaluation are increasingly decoupled. This creates the need for different platforms to interact and at least to be aware of each other’s policies and requirements. At present, there are minimal standards to enable the systematic interoperability of these platforms. At the research output level, standards like DocMaps and the COAR Notify protocol are under development. However, to empower further innovation in scholarly communication, a shared way to describe these different platforms and their possibilities of interaction is required.

The Journal Observatory project

Aims and approach

To address the above described challenge, the Journal Observatory project aims are:

To define an extensible, machine-readable and traceable way to describe the policies and practices of the various platforms involved in disseminating and evaluating scholarly works: the Scholarly Communication Platform Framework.

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To demonstrate the value of this new framework by building a demonstration prototype called the Journal Observatory, a resource which combines data on journals and other publication platforms from various sources to clarify policy information for authors, reviewers and others.

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Project team

Ludo Waltman

Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University

Nees Jan van Eck

Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University

Bram van den Boomen

Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University

Serge Horbach

Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University

Tony Ross-Hellauer

Open and Reproducible Research Group, Graz University of Technology

Next steps

The Journal Observatory project has achieved much within a limited timeframe and with limited resources. We see our project and its outputs as the start or continuation, not the end, of a much larger conversation. We hope our work will provide a base for a more ambitious long-term agenda, co-shaped with the wider scholarly community, and aimed at working toward open and interoperable infrastructure for providing systematic and reliable information on scholarly journals and other scholarly communication platforms.

Call to action

We call upon all within the scholarly communications community to work collaboratively to advance these aims. If you are interested to discuss potential collaboration with us, please contact us via Ludo Waltman, Journal Observatory project lead: