An overlay journal is an open access, quality-assured journal whose articles are held in one or more repositories. An overlay journal does not host the articles on the journal’s website but links back to the relevant article in an open repository or preprint server.

Overlay journals take advantage of the growing momentum for preprint sharing while leveraging the distributed nature of the web. They represent an innovative and cost effective alternative to traditional journals. The COAR Notify Initiative is developing the technical glue that will enable overlay journals to scale by connecting to articles in any compatible repository and preprint server.

Why publish in an overlay journal?

  • Most overlay journals have no Article Processing Charges (APCs) and no embargo periods
  • Authors simply deposit their preprint into the repository or preprint server, then submit the link to the relevant overlay journal. The preprint will be immediately available to readers.

See the example of Discrete Analysis

  • Overlay journals have editorial boards
  • Like traditional journals, articles submitted to overlay journals undergo a peer review process
  • Many overlay journals rank highly within the traditional journal citation metrics.

See the  example of Advances in Combinatorics

  • Overlay journals assign a persistent identifier assignments to articles
  • Articles in overlay journals are included in citation services, indexes and discovery services

Overlay journals are often run independently by groups of scholars, rather than large publishing companies. COAR fosters international, concerted efforts to develop strong, community-governed infrastructures that support diversity in scholarly communications (referred to as bibliodiversity).

  • Because articles are available in an open repository or preprint server and licensed for reuse with attribution, automatic translations/multilingual versions are possible.
  • Article versioning is easier in overlay journals because there are common practices across repositories and preprint servers

See the example of Panlingua

Why choose the overlay model for a new or existing journal?

  •  Because the storage and access costs for the articles are covered by the repository or preprint server which hosts the article, the costs of running an overlay journal are significantly lower than traditional journals.
  •  Funding opportunities are growing because there are a growing number of academic libraries interested in supporting the overlay model

Articles and preprints in repositories and preprint servers are already licensed under an open license, therefore there are no hassles with copyright for editors

  • Articles in overlay journals are discoverable through both the preprint repository and the journal web pages and therefore are more visible in the ecosystem
  • Articles and preprints in repositories and preprint servermost often use open licenses, allowing inclusion in overlay journals without additional copyright negotiations
  • In many disciplines, scholars already use preprint servers as a primary way to stay up-to-date on the latest research in their field because they are centralised, known deposit centres that offer search functionality

See examples in both arXiv and and theOpen Journal of Astrophysics, which have all of their articles indexed in Google Scholar.

Get started

There are a growing number of (low or no) fee overlay service provider(s) which support journal submission, editorial and publishing workflows. For example:

Overlay journals are relatively easy to set up. Some use WordPress to host the webpages and maintain a simple editorial workflow with peer reviewers using email. For example:

  • COAR’s October 2022 interview (coming soon) of Psicológica journal lead Pandelis Perakakis includes a step-by-step breakdown of that journal’s low-cost, replicable editorial workflow.
  • This short “Do-it-yourself Overlay Journal article introduces using the Open Science Framework and WordPress to set up an overlay journal.

Related Resources

Talk given to Spanish Society for Experimental Psychology (SEPEX) on the publication model of Psicológica:

Pandelis Perakakis. 2021. Is there life beyond publishers?

Investigating peer review overlay services

Today, a new journal in mathematics was launched by Timothy Gowers and Dan Kral. The journal, called ‘Advances in Combinatorics’, is an overlay journal, built entirely on articles contained in the arXiv repository. It …