‘Dipping a toe into the water of open access’ : An Editor and Society’s perspective on the launch of a new open access history of science journal

I think it is fair to say that both scholars and publishers are still feeling their way in the new world of open access. Publishers worry about where the receipts are going to come from, and while academics might love the idea that everyone can read their work they, too, have concerns. Learned societies, the social foundation of many disciplines and specialties, have sometime reacted with especial wariness. Journal income, for example, is often channelled right back into the field, funding conferences and postgraduate research travel.

I’m a historian of science, and an active member of my learned body, the British Society for the History of Science. The BSHS has had a long and mutually productive relationship with Cambridge University Press, with CUP publishing the BSHS’s journal. When the BSHS was deliberating about how to spend a bequest, we decided to try an experiment .

I would like to introduce an exciting new collaborative venture between the BSHS and CUP aimed at establishing the first fully open access journal for the history of science community.

BJHS Themes will be a new open access journal, with each issue exploring a timely and important topic. Think of it as an edited collection of engaging scholarship, which will be free to read and present no financial barrier to publication to authors.

There will be one BJHS Themes each year. Each issue will be chosen through an open competition. We like this model as we believe it will encourage not only a suitably high standard of history of science, but also because it offers an equality of opportunity.

I will be the first editor of BJHS Themes, having completed five enjoyable years as editor of the BJHS. My role will be to organise the competition and to guide the successful proposal through to publication.

Like its sister publication, British Journal for the History of Science, BJHS Themes is a journal of the British Society for the History of Science, and we are delighted to be able to build on our Society’s relationship with Cambridge University Press.

BJHS Themes is made possible by the Wheeler bequest, a generous gift to the Society that came with the stipulation that the sum would go towards the building of a library. In these days of electronic media, we think that the BJHS Themes is an excellent, forward-looking and sensible way of fulfilling this wish.

If you have any further questions, or perhaps are interested in putting together a proposal for the competition, there is more information about the journal here:


Jon Agar

University College London

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