Alternative publication models

23 Publishing submissions in advance of regular issues: “online first”

Last updated: November 22, 2021 for OJS 3.3.0.8

OJS does not have a dedicated mechanism for publishing “online first”/”forthcoming” articles but it’s possible to cheat the issue publication process to mimic the feature. The following steps explain how to publish under the label “Online First” in advance of a regular, numbered .

Here’s what you get by following this process:

  • New submissions published as soon as they are ready
  • Stable links and DOIs (if applicable) for the submissions
  • Links to Online First through the navigation menu, the Archive, and through a custom sidebar block (optional)
  • Your most recent, regular issue appears as your [1].

There are three components to this process:

  1. Initial setup of Online First
  2. Publishing submissions to Online First
  3. Reassigning submissions to a regular issue

Initial setup of Online First

Follow these steps just once, when you commit to using an online first publication model.

You must create and publish your Online First issue, and create a Navigation Menu Item linked to that issue. You can also create a custom sidebar block linked to Online First as well.

  1. Create your Online First issue:
    1. Follow the steps for creating an issue
    2. In Step 2 of Creating an Issue, use the title “Online First” and select only the Title checkbox.
  2. Publish the Online First issue.
  3. Change your back to your most recent, regular issue[2]:
    1. Go to Issues > Back Issues
    2. Click the blue arrow beside the title of your most recent, regular issue
    3. Click Current Issue
    4. Click OK.
  4. Create the Navigation Menu Item:
    1. Go to Website Settings > Setup > Navigation
    2. Next to Navigation Menu Items, click Add Item
    3. In the Title field, write “Online First”
    4. Under Navigation Menu Type, select Remote URL
    5. In the URL field that just appeared, paste the full URL of your Online First issue
      Note for multilingual journals: you must paste the same URL in the field for each language activated for your journal.
    6. Click Save.
  5. Add the Navigation Menu Item to the Primary Navigation Menu:
    1. Under Navigation, click Primary Navigation Menu
    2. Drag Online First from the Unassigned Menu Items column to the Assigned Menu Items column
    3. Ensure that the container box for Online First is flush against the left-hand side of the Assigned Menu Items column; if it is indented, it will be nested under the menu item above it
    4. Click Save.
  6. Optional: create a custom sidebar block:
    1. Follow the steps for creating a custom block with the title “Online First”
    2. In the Content field, write “Online First”
    3. Link the text in the Content field to your Online First issue
    4. Keep the box under Show Name unchecked.

Online First is now a published issue without any submissions that appears in the navigation menu, in the Archives and, optionally, in a custom block in the right sidebar. You can now publish submissions to this issue as they are ready.

Publishing submissions to Online First

Follow these steps every time you wish to publish a new submission to Online First.

When you have completed the editorial and production workflow for the submission, you can assign it the Online First issue to have it published immediately.

  1. If your journal’s submissions receive DOIs, manually assign the DOI to the submission
  2. Go to Production > Issue for the submission
  3. Under the Issue heading, click Assign to Issue
  4. Select Online First from the drop-down menu
  5. Click Save
  6. A notification saying “All publication requirements have been met” will appear. Click Publish.
  7. If your journal’s submissions receive DOIs, manually register the DOI.

The submission will now be published in Online First. If the submission has a DOI, the DOI will now be registered and functional.

You cannot use OJS’s built-in notification to notify your readers about newly published submissions – it only sends notifications for new issues. You may wish to use the Announcements plugin in order to send notifications about newly published submissions.

Reassigning submissions to a regular issue

Follow these steps when you are ready to publish a complete, regular issue.

You must reassign the articles from Online First to the new issue, publish the new issue, and then reorder your list of issues.

  1. Create a new, regular issue.
  2. Unpublish the submissions from Online First[3]:
    1. Go to Issues > Back Issues
    2. Click Online First
    3. In the Table of Contents, click the blue arrow next to the title of the submission your wish to reassign and then click Remove
    4. Repeat step 2.iii for all submissions you wish to reassign to the new, regular issue.
  3. Reassign the submissions to the new issue:
    1. Find the submission(s) you wish to reassign in Submissions > My Queue or Submissions > All Active
    2. For each submission, go to Production > Issue
    3. Under the Issue heading, click Change Issue
    4. Select the new issue from the drop-down menu
    5. Click Save
    6. A notification saying “All publication requirements have been met” will appear; however, the submission will not be republished until you publish the new issue. Click Publish.
    7. Repeat steps 3.i-3.vi for all submissions you wish to reassign to the new, regular issue.
  4. Publish the new issue.
  5. Reorder your list of issues[4]:
    1. Go to Issues > Back Issues
    2. Click Order
    3. Drag Online First to the top of the list of issues
    4. Click Done.

The submissions that were previously published in Online First will now appear in OJS as part of the new issue. However, the URLs and DOIs for the published submissions will remain unchanged.


  1. You cannot show the contents of both your Online First issue and your most recent, regular issue on your journal's homepage. OJS only displays the contents of the Current Issue on your journal's homepage, and only one issue can be designated at the Current Issue. You must therefore designate either Online First or your most recent, regular issue as your Current Issue; YDJ advises designated the regular issue as the Current Issue. While it may be technically possible to display more than one table of contents but YDJ does not have the resources to customize OJS like this or to support the customization.
  2. If you skip this step, the empty Online First issue will appear on your OJS homepage. This may create the impression that your journal is inactive or that there is a problem with the website.
  3. It is also possible to create a new version of the submissions and assign the new version to the regular issue. If you do this, the same submission will be linked from the tables of contents of both the new, regular issue and Online First. However, the Citation Style plugin should only display the regular issue in the auto-generated citations.
  4. By default, each newly published issue appears at the top of the list of issues in the Archive. This step ensures that Online First remains that the top of the list in the Archive.

License

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OJS for YDJ by Tomasz Mrozewski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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