Last week Tim Gowers, Cambridge University mathematician and open access advocate who led the recent boycott of Elsevier, announced an exciting new open access initiative for mathematicians on his blog.

The project, called the Episciences Project, will make it super quick and easy to set up open access journals called “epijournals”. Epijournals are electronic journals that link to pre-prints of academic journals held on arXiv servers. The articles collected in these journals will have gone through the same editorial processes and peer review that traditional journal articles have. However, in epijournals these articles are not formatted or typeset and, therefore, cost almost nothing to produce.

The project aims to enable the establishment of many such epijournals that will cater for different parts of the mathematics academic community. Gowers himself has stated that him and others will be setting up a an epijournal for additive combinatorics.

The aim is to make the software good enough that academics can get on with peer reviewing and editing journal articles with minimal administrative overhead. As these are activities academics generally do without getting paid, epijournals should be completely free for anyone to access and re-publish, meaning they will conform to what has been called “Diamond” open access.

All costs associated with site maintenance will be covered by the Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe (CCSD) in collaboration with the Institut Fourier at Grenoble University leaving the scientific community free to run its own publishing system.

One of the exciting possibilites that the initiative opens up is that of allowing scholars to comment on and refine work with the help of larger parts of the academic community that can attach their commentary via links to the arViv articles. Gowers, in his blog post, highlights the benefits of this for scholarly collaboration.

Jean-Pierre Demailly from the University of Grenoble, France, and one of the leaders of the initiative said:

It’s a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals.

While there have been previous attempts to launch similar open access publication initiatives, the endorsement of prominent scholars such as Gowers and the growing support for open access across vast swathes of academia means that the time is right for such an initiative to become widely adopted.

We look forward to covering the progress of this fantastic new initiative.

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Sam is a data trainer and wrangler at Open Knowledge. He Tweets from @Noel_Mas