Open Source Publications in the Humanities

Hey all! Hope you guys are ok!

I have a friend who researches semiotics/cultural history and who is very interested and asked me about licences/ways/options for publishing essays that result from their research openly. Does anybody have any insights on Open Source ways of publishing works in this field? This friend is even considering creating a publication for a groups of researchers she works with.

Thanks already for reading and helping me with insights!

Stay safe!

Hugs from Brazil


While I have no insight into that field. The general approach most researchers I know take if they are not able to find an open access journal for a paper (or can’t afford the sometimes extortionate fees!) is to put a preprint online using a preprint service. The standard in physics would be, but I see that the social sciences have SocArXiv, there is also Zenodo which will archive anything in the open but I have found google scholar bad at picking it up (if that is important).

Most journals allow you to submit a paper even if a preprint is open already. I am not a big fan of the method of archiving preprint, and then using a closed publisher, but sometimes it is the only way. If enough people do it it pushes journals toward being more open.

Hopefully someone with more experience in this field has more specific advice.


Ola’ Edu!

My first suggestion would be to look into the “Open Access” journals in the field of your friend. One interesting piece of historical information here is that Brasil was a pioneer in open access (before “Open Access” existed as a term and found circulation in the Euroamerican world). So, we have tons of alternatives for the social sciences and humanities that are much more open than what we find elsewhere. Examples from Anthropology, Social Sciences and History:

I would also echo Julian’s suggestions in creating a digital commons for the humanities based on Free Software tools and platforms we have for preprint and data archival. The “Open Science Framework” helps you integrate different research materials (and services your group might use):



Hi @edu.biomusical!

First I will echo @julianstirling and @unixjazz’s responses: SocArXiv, Zenodo, and the Open Science Framework (OSF) are great for publishing research output including the social sciences and humanities (though I admit I sometimes I have trouble differentiating the two, sorry!).

Since you mentioned “essays”, I wasn’t sure whether that is intended to be “peer-reviewed papers” in an academic journal? In case the essays don’t fit the rigid mold of academic journals, may I also submit for your consideration the journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO)? It is designed to allow publication of any research output, from documents, presentations, grant proposals, media, to many other things using an open license. Granted, Zenodo and OSF can also publish different types of research output, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at RIO, too.

This friend is even considering creating a publication for a groups of researchers she works with.

That’s exciting! Every time something like this comes up I must give my obligatory, strong suggestion: Please don’t choose Elsevier as the publisher! They actively undermine open science and open access efforts worldwide. In contrast, Pensoft, the publisher of RIO, and Ubiquity Press are big advocates of open access journals, but as far as I know there isn’t an open source journal publishing platform (is there?).

How familiar is your friend regarding licenses? It’s important to carefully think through which license to use (e.g. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0)) and how to correctly apply it before publishing.

Hope this helps.


@hpy: to answer Pen’s question about “open source publishing platforms”… yes! we do have quite a few:

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Hi @edu.biomusical
From my understanding, it seems like your friend want to publish an essay…the best way to do this is Auto-archiving aka the green voice of Open Access and he has two options to do this:

  • If he belongs to an higher institution, he needs to check if there is an Institutional repository or Open repository put in place by the institution to facilitate Open access;

  • If he is independent, I will advice to use Zenodo or Figshare to archive his essay and get a permanent DOI (Digital Object Identifier) for free. The important with this procedure is that it allows you to meet all the requirements of the OAI-PMH which makes your essay foundable in all scholarly communications database.

Finally if you are planning to publish a peer-reviewed paper, this is another procedure. Before choosing the journal where to publish, I will advise you to look their Editorial Policy. Sherpa/Romeo is a database where you can find all journal policies. You can easily chose those fully open access, without any embargo, etc…

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“open source publishing platforms”… yes! we do have quite a few

Amazing! You have no idea for how many years I’ve wondered if they exist.

I took the liberty of adding them to my little list of libre replacements for proprietary software.

Thanks @unixjazz! :slight_smile:

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