Reopening JOSS

On March 12th of this year, we suspended new submissions to JOSS in order to reduce the load on our volunteer team of editors and reviewers. We revisited this suspension in early April and decided to continue the pause on new submissions for at least another month. Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reviewing our current status and discussing what it might look like to reopen JOSS.

After collecting inputs from the whole JOSS editorial team about their respective availabilities and discussing what to do next we’ve decided to reopen JOSS in a “reduced service mode” from May 20th, 2020.

Reduced service mode

So what does a “reduced service mode” mean exactly? Essentially this is about adjusting our editorial processes to give authors, editors, and reviewers more time to carry out their activities during the JOSS review process.

We expect that JOSS will be operating in this mode for the foreseeable future with the following new editorial processes:

Revised (extended) review time: Before the suspension, we encouraged reviewers to complete their reviews in two weeks. In this reduced service mode, we’re asking that reviewers try to complete their reviews in six weeks. Reviewers are of course welcome to complete their reviews faster than this and given the iterative nature of JOSS reviews we still encourage everyone to start their review as soon as possible.

Reduced paper throughput: As we reopen JOSS, we plan to limit the number of incoming submissions that will be assigned to a handling editor (and therefore go out for review). In these first few weeks we’re planning on a limit of five papers per week, with papers after this held in a first come, first served waitlist pre-review issue on GitHub.

Re-assign the submissions with unavailable editors: A small number of our editors are currently completely unable to edit due to other commitments. As we reopen JOSS, those papers will be reassigned to a new handling editor.

Growing our editorial team: Back on February, we issued a call for new editors which received an excellent response. Over the coming weeks we will begin on-boarding new editors to help grow the capacity of JOSS.

What this means for JOSS

During the pause on submissions, we’ve managed to publish 37 papers from the existing backlog which is an amazing feat in itself 💖. Since instigating the pause however, activity across all of JOSS had been markedly reduced.

JOSS relies upon editors and reviewers volunteering their time to help authors improve their research software in an iterative, open review process. For many of us, JOSS is a labor of love, and an opportunity to give back to the communities we work in.

While we can never know exactly how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every JOSS author, editor, and reviewer, we hope that with these changes to our editorial processes we have found the right balance between accommodating the very real challenges many of us now face in our daily lives, and providing a service to the research software community.

Arfon M. Smith on behalf of the JOSS editorial team