This week, a new member of the open access family was born. Using a model quite different from its siblings’, PeerJ is an online publisher of biological and medical research that foregoes the article processing charge. Instead, a low, one-time fee gives authors certain publishing rights for life. Read on to learn how it works and how PeerJ will advance the open science agenda.
Last Tuesday, February 11, another fundamental change to scientific publishing occurred with the publication of the first 30 articles on PeerJ. This is not a journal in the traditional sense, but a peer-reviewed, online platform for the publication of open access biological and medical research articles. PeerJ’s position, like that of PLOS ONE, is to judge submitted articles based only on the validity of their science and methods, not the potential impact.
The system here falls under the gold open access model, but PeerJ finances it differently from any other OA structure: three plans for individuals offer different publishing privileges (e.g. number of articles per year), but all function around the payment of a one-time, lifetime membership fee for authors. And, ranging from $99 to $299, these sums are unlikely to break the researcher’s bank. The result? Affordable, sustainable publishing of science results, freely available to all.
The only “catch”, PeerJ co-founder Peter Binfield wrote regarding their membership business model is that every author on an article must be an active, paying member. Responding to the notion that their low, one-off price is “too good to be true!”, the company says that the numbers do add up when you take several factors into account: research articles usually have multiple authors (and, therefore, multiple, paying accounts); some researchers will publish less than others or in different journals; and PeerJ’s costs are simply lower than those of traditional publishing houses.
The excitement around PeerJ’s unique model for OA publishing is only heightened by the fact that it is led by some serious open access and media heavyweights. Peter Binfield comes from a long career in academic publishing, most recently as managing editor at PLOS ONE. Jason Hoyt, co-founder and CEO, was formerly Chief Scientist and VP of R&D at Mendeley, the academic network and reference manager that helps scientists organize their work and collaborations. Joining them on the Board is Tim O’Reilly, publisher, technology visionary and open access advocate.
These three members of the Governing Board are joined by nearly 800 academics who will serve on the Editorial Board of PeerJ. These are the people who will handle individual article submissions, seeking out peer reviewers, managing the process and making final editorial decisions. The Academic Advisory Board, made up of 20 renowned researchers (including five Nobel laureates) will provide guidance and support for PeerJ’s mission.
If you like PLOS-style open access scientific journals, you'll want to see this: The Launch of PeerJ - tmblr.co/ZhEPVwd_FF7M— Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) 12 février 2013
Open Science Spirit
Beyond its unique pricing system and big-name support, PeerJ also stands out with its dedication to the open science worldview. “Peer reviewers will be encouraged to reveal their identities,” the journal states on it website, and authors can choose to publish these peer reviews and their own responses alongside the article. All published content will be under a CC-BY 3.0 license: free to download, share and adapt, as long as the original author is attributed.
The process vows to be fast, too, getting results out there to be evaluated, used and built upon. Paleontologist Mike Taylor writes in The Guardian that his article was peer reviewed, revised, went through two rounds of proof and was published on PeerJ’s “opening day”, all in just 10 weeks. “That's by far the fastest any manuscript of mine has ever been handled. It's not unusual for the process to take more than a year.”
Once a piece of research is published, it will be important for the rest of the community to engage with it, examine it and give feedback. To encourage this, the journal requires that all members participate with at least one “review” of some kind per year, which could be something as simple as a comment on an article, or an official pre-publication review.
More in store
In March, PeerJ will launch its pre-print hosting service PeerJ PrePrints. The company encourages scientists to “avoid mistakes, establish precedence, and gain valuable feedback” by posting their work before publication. Additional features allow authors to decide which parts of their work are visible at this stage, and to whom.
Taking even farther the idea of “research for all”, co-founder Jason Hoyt told Scientific American that a long-term goal of PeerJ is to make scientific journals more attractive to the general public and get them browsing through research results. …
With time, PeerJ’s business model will prove how viable it is, and the company itself is the first to admit that no one can know how the OA market will evolve from here. More importantly, someone is going out on a limb to imagine a new reality for scientific publishing, and taking the chance to make it work. Nothing is sure, but, as Stephen Curry told MyScienceWork, “Don’t underestimate anything Peter Binfield is involved in.”
Find out more:
“PeerJ: An Open-Access Experiment”, by Peter Binfield
“How PeerJ is Changing Everything in Academic Publishing”, on Techdirt
“Interview with Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt of Peer J”, on Confessions of a Science Librarian, with John Dupuis
“PeerJ – the science journal we need and deserve”, by Kevin Bonham
Related articles on MyScienceWork:
Video: [Open Access Interviews] Curt Rice: Radically reform the communication of scientific results http://www.mysciencework.com/en/MyScienceNews/9545/open-access-interviews-curt-rice
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