Overlay journal

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An overlay journal or overlay ejournal is an open access academic journal, almost always an online electronic journal (ejournal), that does not produce its own content, but selects from texts that are already freely available online. While many overlay journals derive their content from preprint servers, others, such as the Lund Medical Faculty Monthly, contain mainly papers published by commercial publishers, but with links to self-archived preprint or postprints when possible.

The editors of an overlay journal locate suitable material from open access repositories and public domain sources, read it, and evaluate its worth. This evaluation may take the form of the judgement of a single editor or editors, or a full peer review process.

Public validation of subsequently approved texts may take several forms. At its most formal, the editor may republish the article with explicit approval. Approval might take the form of an addition to the text or its metadata. Or the editor may simply link to the article, via the table of contents of the overlay journal. An alternative approach is to link to articles already published in various open access ejournals, but adding value by grouping scattered articles together as a single themed issue of the overlay journal. Such themed issues allow the focussed coverage of relatively obscure or newly emerging topics.


The term 'overlay journal' was first coined by Paul Ginsparg in 1996.[1] That same year, the journal Physical Review D began to link to pre-prints that they had accepted, but not yet published.[2] It was not until later that the first overlay journals were founded, including Journal of High Energy Physics, Logical Methods in Computer Science and Geometry and Topology, all of which were overlays for arXiv.[1]

In February 2016, Timothy Gowers launched the overlay journal Discrete Analysis.[3] The overlay journal Quantum was also launched in 2016,[4][5][6] with the first paper accepted in April 2017.[7]


  1. ^ a b Brown, Josh. "An introduction to overlay journals". UCL Discovery. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  2. ^ Cassella, Maria; Calvi, Licia (March 2010). "New journal models and publishing perspectives in the evolving digital environment". IFLA Journal. 36 (1): 7–15. doi:10.1177/0340035209359559. 
  3. ^ Ball, Philip (15 September 2015). "Leading mathematician launches arXiv 'overlay' journal". Nature. 526 (7571): 146–146. Bibcode:2015Natur.526..146B. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18351. 
  4. ^ "Meet Quantum: A Community-led arXiv overlay journal for quantum science". blog.scholasticahq.com. Retrieved 2018-03-30. 
  5. ^ "Announcing Quantum – the open journal for quantum science". www.physik.fu-berlin.de. 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2018-03-30. 
  6. ^ Grant, Andrew (9 November 2016). "A new open-access physics journal enters the fold". Physics Today. Retrieved 29 March 2018. 
  7. ^ McKague, Matthew (25 April 2017). "Self-testing in parallel with CHSH". Quantum Journal. Retrieved 29 March 2018.