The RIOJA project has finished, and this website is no longer being updated. The RIOJA toolkit is available here.

August 2008


The RIOJA project will investigate technical, social and economic aspects of the overlay of quality assurance onto papers deposited to and stored in eprints repositories. RIOJA is funded by the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee, UK), as part of the Repositories and Preservation Programme. It is led by UCL (University College London), working with a partnership of academic researchers, librarians and repository administrators.

The partner institutions are:

RIOJA runs from 01 March 2007 to 30 June 2008.


The impetus for the RIOJA project comes directly from astrophysics researchers at the partner institutions. These researchers are all users (both as depositors and consumers) of the arXiv subject repository. arXiv is very firmly embedded in the research workflows of the subject communities which it serves: a substantial portion of newly-written papers are contributed to the repository as a matter of course, and most researchers rely on it for current awareness.

It is clear that arXiv provides three of the four "first order" functions of a journal, which have been identified(1) as follows:

Registration occurs when a research paper is received by arXiv, at which point it is assigned a unique identifier and date stamp. It is commonplace for papers to be referenced thereafter by arXiv identifier.

arXiv satisfies the Awareness function. Once registered, an arXiv paper can appear in the public domain on the same day. It is openly and freely available, without barriers to access. arXiv offers alerts to new papers, and is OAI-harvestable.

arXiv also satisfies the Archiving function, with an emphasis on stable and portable formats at ingest, and the retention for public scrutiny of version-controlled superseded papers alongside the most recent update: certainly not every publishing house manages its archival responsibilities so successfully.

Certification is not yet provided by arXiv.

This is the starting-point for the RIOJA project. Although arXiv fulfils most of the functions of the traditional journal, depositing papers to the repository has not supplanted the traditional publishing process. The quality stamp which peer review provides remains essential. To acquire it, however, researchers must engage with the full machinery of formal publication. This can be a protracted process, which can involve page charges and/or author/funder charges; the requirement to reformat the arXiv manuscript into a publishers' preferred format; the introduction of scientific errors through third-party mathematical copy-editing; restrictive copyright transfer agreements; version control issues between the arXiv version of a paper (already widely-read) and its published counterpart; and post-publication barriers to access because of subscription and licensing arrangements. Researchers, meanwhile, primarily require that their research, already publicly and freely available in the repository, is validated.

There is evidence that some researchers are frustrated by this situation.(2) Much interest is on record in the concept of enriching arXiv through the incorporation of a speedy but robust quality-stamping system, bypassing the perceived redundancies of the formal publication system, while retaining its most important function - quality assurance - and so minimising the costs of research validation and dissemination while maximising the value of arXiv to researchers.

Could rapid quality certification be overlaid directly onto the arXiv repository? What other value, besides the quality stamp, does journal publication typically add? What are the costs of the ideal overlay journal for the astrophysics community, and how could those costs be recovered? Would researchers really be willing to submit work to a new journal overlaid on the arXiv repository? These are some of the questions which the RIOJA project will explore.

The Project

For the purposes of the RIOJA project, an overlay journal is defined as:

a quality-assured journal whose content is deposited to and resides in one or more open access repositories.

The RIOJA project will create an interoperability toolkit to enable the overlay of certification onto papers housed in subject repositories. The intention is that the tool will be generic, helping any repository to realise its potential to act as a more complete scholarly resource. The project will also create a demonstrator overlay journal, using the arXiv repository and PKP OJS software, with interaction between the two facilitated by the RIOJA toolkit.

To inform and shape the project, a survey of Astrophysics and Cosmology researchers will be conducted. This will be an online questionnaire survey, targeting scientists in the international top 100 academic and other institutions in these disciplines. The project team will also undertake formal and informal discussion with academic and managing members of editorial boards. The survey and supplementary discussions will help to ensure that the RIOJA outputs address the needs and expectations of the research community. Finally, findings of the survey and related discussions will be combined with findings from the literature into a more general report on issues around the sustainability of an overlay journal.

The RIOJA outputs will be made publicly available. It is hoped that the deliverables from RIOJA, and the lessons learned in the course of the project, will help to advise and inform the future development of overlay journals, including journals grounded in other subject areas and using other repositories.

Note: RIOJA and Peer Review
RIOJA does not propose to investigate models of certification other than peer review. However, should the survey reveal significant community enthusiasm for the investigation of alternative methods of certification, this will be highlighted in the published project outputs and incorporated in the continuation plan as a possibility for future development work.

Revised August 2008


  1. Prosser, David C. (2005) Fulfilling the promise of scholarly communication - a comparison between old and new access models, in Nielsen, Erland Kolding and Saur, Klaus G. and Ceynowa, Klaus, Eds. Die innovative Bibliothek : Elmar Mittler zum 65.Geburtstag, pp. 95-106. K G Saur. (Also available at http://eprints.rclis.org/archive/00003918)
  2. See, for instance, the following threads on the CosmoCoffee discussion forum: http://cosmocoffee.info/viewtopic.php?t=276 | http://cosmocoffee.info/viewtopic.php?t=280

  • JISC website
  • Cornell University website
  • University of Glasgow website
  • UCL website
  • Imperial College London website
  • University of Cambridge website
Go to topTop arrow