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PeerJ, A New Open Access Megajournal Launches

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the tim-oreilly-super-hero dept.

The Media 61

Mirk writes "Academic researchers want to make their papers open access for the world to read. If they use traditional publishers like Elsevier, Springer or Taylor & Francis, they'll be charged $3000 to bring their work out from behind the paywall. But PeerJ, a new megajournal launched today and funded by Tim O'Reilly, publishes open access articles for $99. That's not done by cutting corners: the editorial process is thorough, and they use rigorous peer-review. The cost savings come from running lean and mean on a born-digital system. The initial batch of 30 papers includes one on a Penn and Teller trick and one on the long necks of dinosaurs." $99 entitles you to publish an article a year, for life. $300 nets you unlimited articles published per year.

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Charging authors is not much better... (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883153)

Charging authors to publish is not much better than charging people to read the articles. What we truly need is a system that is paid for by universities, cooperatively, that allows anyone to submit a paper and allows anyone to download as many or as few papers as they would like.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883241)

The charge is a very small amount. One would think it is ~ 1% of the dollar value of time invested in writing the paper.

What is achieves is to filter serious papers from frivolous ones and this cuts the total cost of peer reviewing them.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

supercrisp (936036) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884379)

The smallness of the amount is relative. My family of two academics clears about $200 a month, and we don't own a home, have car payments, cable payments, nor do we make any retirement contributions (and we're in our 40s). In other words, we live as cheaply as possible and are not in a good economic situation. And this fee would knock out a half of what we can save in a month. Of course, ideally, university's would cover the fees charged to their faculty for such publications, and that would likely be the case at most universities.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) | about a year and a half ago | (#42885293)

Yeah... you would just add this fee into your grant application. Shouldn't be too difficult. Also, it would only really take about 8-9$ per month.

Yawn (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42886209)

Yawn. Another open access "journal" that's going to make money by charging authors. Open access journals are the science equivalent of vanity publishers. I get about three solicitations a week for me to send papers to some open access journal that I've never heard of.

There's almost zero entry barrier to somebody setting up a website and calling an "open access scientific journal." What they're saying is, give them a hundred bucks and they'll put your text on the web! It costs almost nothing to them, they make a hundred bucks profit, and you can say "look see, I have a publication!"

Anybody can start a "journal." But, does it mean anything? Does anybody actually read it? Does anybody (other than the author) ever cite it?

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42886723)

You seem to oddly leave out the review process. Anyone can host random papers on the web for very little money, and stick an official sounding name on it. That was true even before the open access thing gained momentum, and really has nothing to do with open access at all.

It all comes down to quality and consistency. This depends heavily on the review process, and how well it is managed. But once you've established a record of doing that well, the readership, citations, and better submissions will follow. You might not be dethroning the top journals that have decades or centuries of tradition keeping them at the top of their fields, but there is a lot of room for solid, second tier journals.

And speaking from experience, the majority of the effort isn't about getting it up on the web, but managing the review process. It is one thing to volunteer to write a review for a specific paper when asked to. To be in charge of finding reviewers, keeping them on track, and dealing with the disagreements is a whole different mess, especially with some sort of standards of quality. Between that and trying to fix an author's wonky LaTeX so it formats correctly, $100 sounds like a good deal, as I would need to be paid more than that to do such work like that again.

Re:Yawn (1)

Phillip2 (203612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42887971)

All scientific publishing is vanity press, by your measure. The alternative is "give me your work, so that I own it, and I will publish it".
In one case you pay with cash, in another a commodity.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

ph0rk (118461) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883281)

Allows anyone to submit a paper? Who will review them?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (3, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883425)

Volunteers, which is basically what we do now. Anyone can submit a paper to the journals my group publishes in, and if the paper meets the requirements, it will be reviewed by volunteers, and if it is accepted it will be edited by volunteers too.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883523)

Volunteers, which is basically what we do now.

I think more specificity is needed. How are those volunteers selected?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883615)

Exactly, what's to keep a person from setting up a bunch of fake identities, registering them w/ the site, submitting a paper, then having the shills volunteer to review the paper?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42884107)

What will stop them is that the shills will not get the paper for review. Since your fake identities won't have a track record in the field, they will have a hard time to get the paper for review (it's not as if you can decide which papers you review; you get asked to review a specific paper, and then either accept or decline the request to review it, but you cannot ask to review a specific paper).

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (3, Informative)

slew (2918) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884153)

I don't know about PeerJ specifically, but typically the editor (or more generally, editorial board desginees) for the journal selects the specific reviewer(s) for a paper. They don't just hold up a paper and ask for volunteers for a specific paper. To execute the strategy of signing up a bunch of shills and hoping that the editor will randomly select them, and nobody who would actually do a legitimate peer-review, is probably not going to be a very good long term strategy if the editors aren't in cahoots, although it might occasionally work for a very obscure topic.

On the other hand, that's no worse than the situation today (the more obsure the research, the more cooperative backscratching there is).

The bigger problem I see is how to entice quality peer-review volunteers. Traditional Journals entice peer-reviewers by offering stuff like book vouchers, or free access for a few weeks per reviewed article and/or free access to all references in the paper during the peer review duration. If it costs nothing to access the journal, these traditional enticements don't have any value. As I understand it, to make up for this, they are forcing members to "volunteer" to review at least 1 time per year (or at least comment on a public submission). I don't see how this would be very effective out of the gate, but as with the /. moderation system, I'm sure it will be tweaked over time...

FWIW, it seems that PeerJ is apparently currently only Biology and Medical Science Journal (not a true megajournal). Journals in those fields tend to have the most egregious pricing scales and have the most annoying editorial boards (because there are limited publishing options). I'm sure that's a deliberate marketing ploy (hit the Journal industry where it's the most vunerable).

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

Mirk (184717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883881)

Check the PeerJ site. Peer-reviewers are chosen by an academic editor -- standard practice at scholarly journals. There is a board of 800 academic editors (PeerJ's planning to get big, quickly). That large board is overseen by a much smaller senior board to 20 scientists (of whom five have Nobel prizes to their names). It's serious stuff.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883931)

The editors contact researchers they consider able to review the paper. The reviewer selection process is a big part of what makes the quality of a journal.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

supercrisp (936036) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884347)

"Volunteer" has an odd meaning in the context of scholarly publication. I "volunteer" my services at three journals. I definitely would not do anything for one, maybe two, of them if it were not for the fact that such labor is required by the university that employees. So this is not an entirely voluntary sort of volunteering.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (3, Interesting)

gwolf (26339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884405)

Right, it can be seen as part of your task as an academic. The extra income I get from teaching is very little, but it is part of what an academic should do. Reviewing does not give me money at all (although it marginally publicizes my name), so it's also part of my tasks as an academic.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884163)

I assumed that's part of what the $99 is for.

That's not done by cutting corners: the editorial process is thorough, and they use rigorous peer-review.

Peer review is not paid work (2)

gwolf (26339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884383)

When I have reviewed papers for a refereed journal, I have not been paid. The most "pay" I get is to be mentioned as part of the "scientific committee" for that particular number of the journal.
Of course, the journals should choose who gets to be a reviewer — If I have reviewed something, it is because I have submitted works there that were published, and were deemed worthy of being a reviewer.
Now, there *can* be a journal where the author doesn't pay, the reviewers get only credit, and the readers don't pay. That can be achieved either with publicity, or by foregoing commercial interest and having the publication be a part of a university's mission/academic contributions. Many such publications exist.

Re:Peer review is not paid work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42884733)

Eh, it's common for reviewers to make their grad students review papers instead. So much for being deemed worthy.

Re:Peer review is not paid work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42886099)

If the review makes it look like the reviewer didn't understand the paper or possibly not even read the paper, in my experience it has been pretty easy to point that out to the editor of a journal and they will find another reviewer. Reviewers who do a bad job or take too long, etc., get noted in the journal's records as not being a good reviewer, and then get passed over next time they are looking for a reviewer. So if passed to a grad student, either the prof won't get asked to do it again if their grad students screw it up once or twice and the prof doesn't look at the result, or the grad student does a good job in which case it doesn't matter.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

grahamtriggs (572707) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883305)

Even if the publishers were charities (which they aren't) there are still costs that still have to be covered.

Charging authors doesn't mean that it comes out of the authors personal pockets - generally, the money comes from the university, or more likely, from the funding body that paid for the research to take place.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883491)

Even if the publishers were charities (which they aren't) there are still costs that still have to be covered.

Name those costs. Universities already archive scientific journals as a service, peer review is generally done by unpaid volunteers, editing is generally done by unpaid volunteers, and we know how to use peer to peer networks to distribute large amounts of data without paying a lot for bandwidth (imagine the major universities acting as seeds for bittorrent archives of each years' collection of published journal articles). So what cost do you think remains to be paid here?

Charging authors doesn't mean that it comes out of the authors personal pockets - generally, the money comes from the university, or more likely, from the funding body that paid for the research to take place.

In other words, we still have some of the problems that open access should solve. While we no longer have the issue of individuals being unable to access knowledge, we are still saying that research can only be done by those with university affiliations or who are wealthy.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883647)

In other words, we still have some of the problems that open access should solve. While we no longer have the issue of individuals being unable to access knowledge, we are still saying that research can only be done by those with university affiliations or who are wealthy.

A $99 one-time fee does not limit this to the "wealthy". If you can't afford $99, you're not likely to be able to do any meaningful research either.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

Mprx (82435) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883787)

You can do meaningful mathematics research with nothing but pencil and paper. Filtering out frivolous submissions is a worthwhile goal, but the fee should be adjusted according to the author's ability to pay.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883925)

$99 is a trivial amount, EVERY author has the ability to pay that.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884117)

$99 is a trivial amount, EVERY author has the ability to pay that.

Only in developed nations. But even in the 3rd world, it will not be a barrier to anyone with a university or employer affiliation, only to the solo "lone wolf genius" without job or sponsor, which is a scenario so unlikely it might as well be fiction--but I guarantee it will be brought up...

Third world countries... Have a wild variety! (2)

gwolf (26339) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884477)

I live in Mexico, which is often qualified as a third world country. Yes, we are way closer than European living standards than to Subsaharan Africa's — But we are still "third world".
In a university, there are myriads of different programs that can be requested to fund a research project. In my university, the two main programs for that (PAPIME and PAPIIT) grant the researcher upon the project approval starting at around US$17,000 a year for up to three years, to be used in project-related activities (travelling to conferences, hiring interns, buying equipment, or, yes, publishing papers). And that is the *smallest* amount, it can get to three times that.
So, in this portion of the third world... US$99 is not *so* terrible. Of course, you can still publish without a formal project approval (and that's what I have usually done), but it will be harder to do so in the author-pays journals.

Re:Third world countries... Have a wild variety! (2)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884935)

So, in this portion of the third world... US$99 is not *so* terrible. Of course, you can still publish without a formal project approval (and that's what I have usually done), but it will be harder to do so in the author-pays journals.

Especially since it's $99 for life, not per paper, not even per year.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884511)

Chandra. His family wasn't exactly destitute though.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884961)

Chandra. His family wasn't exactly destitute though.

Exactly my point, the genius who cannot possibly scrape together $99 is probably a myth. That means that not only does he not have $99, not only can he not save up $99 in a few years (remember that's for life, not per paper or per year), not only does he not have a mentor or patron who can scrape up $99, he does not have 9 friends who could provide $10 each. Yeah, right. That's not a genius with a publishable paper, that's a lunatic with a delusion...

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883953)

The is no requirement that the author pays, only that someone dose. Authors who can't afford $99 only have to find someone who believes their paper is worth at least that.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884093)

You can't be serious. How exactly would one determine this "ability to pay"? How much would *that* kind of policing cost? That cost is not justified when the fee to publish is as reasonable as this. You just argued that meaningful research can be done with almost no overhead cost (pencil and paper is cheap, but a piece of charcoal and the concrete embankment of the bridge you're living under costs even less). If the research is that meaningful, it should be possible to convince enough sponsors to raise the money for the fee. But if you're living under a bridge, maybe there are bigger problems to solve?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884195)

According to their FAQ, they're only publishing biological and medical research. You can do some meaningful research on bioinformatics with just a computer I suppose, but really, most of the research, $100 is going to be insignificant. And there's nothing to say they wouldn't waive the fee if you absolutely couldn't pay it.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42885483)

If somebody is doing worthwhile research and can't scrape up $300 (for unlimited lifetime publishing) and has Internet access, I'm fairly sure they can do a Kickstarter or similar to get the money if they can show the single paper they can't get published. Or ask somebody more wealthy and interested - I'd easily pay somebody's fee. I assume they'd also be able to talk their way out of it if they absolutely had to - Tim (O'Reilly) is generally a reasonable guy, at least as far as I've interacted with him.

If they don't have Internet access, they can't submit anyway, so that problem falls away.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

naroom (1560139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42886251)

You can do meaningful mathematics research with nothing but pencil and paper.

You're thinking of philosophers. Mathematicians need a pencil, paper, and a trash can.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42888877)

+(Sigma i for i=2 to 3) Funny & Insightful :)

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42886379)

And even if you can't or refuse to pay this cost yourself, there are many options. If you are associated with a university, many departments are starting up funds to help researchers pay for open journal publishing (with the expectation it would be more expensive than this), especially since many researchers will produce papers after their grant is done or on side projects. There are usually additional funds for students and young researchers just to get them to promote their work. Depending on the fine print of some of these, some of them you could tap into without even being an employee of the institute, but just need to talk to them and show them you have something of value to publish.

Heck, just asking nicely can go a long way at those costs. When helping run a seminar for grad students or helping get someone to a conference, I've asked a few profs, and some will kick in similar amounts out of their own pocket if they think it is going to something useful. If prices like this got more popular, you could probably take the effort spent on complaining about it and use it to raise money for a program that helps cover costs of those that can't afford to pay, or makes donation to the journal with a deal to lower the price.

Or you could just not use the journal and put it up on a free service like Arxiv, and solicit for reviews yourself to help improve the quality. It might not help with academia career building, but being unable to raise $100 a year might be a suggestion to consider something other than a career in academia.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883807)

Name those costs. Universities already archive scientific journals as a service

The principal valid costs relate to storage and the provision of an access service, with the costs of operation covered for the next hundred years or so. It's easy to say "but these could be provided for free" but is quite a different story if you've got to guarantee access for that long; with volunteers, it's very easy to end up with nobody storing anything and the data just getting lost completely. You're also unlikely to persuade most university libraries to let anyone outside of their faculty access their collections (except under a quid pro quo arrangement); any general service has to be paid for and it has to be provisioned with cash to cover long term access. Storage costs are decreasing over time, and if you can afford to store for 10 years it's (probably) not that much more to make it to 50 or 100, but it's not free.

Whether all that should really cost $5000 or whatever, I wouldn't like to comment. I just would hate to trust the magic of free for anything very long term. (Heck, we can't even reliably keep all published versions of a piece of open-source software for 20 years.)

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42884359)

I notice that arXiv.com is free to upload to and download from. Many important people would be mightily upset if arXiv ever went down for lack of funding - upset enough to do something about it. Also, there are no guarantees what-so-ever that a printing house won't go out of business, and at that point you don't know that their content will continue to be available since you can no longer hold them to any obligations. As such, I think your chances are actually better with something open than with something closed.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42886979)

This was not a concern in the days of printed journals. Either the library had them or not. If they wanted to keep the periodical around longer, the library was responsible for scanning the periodical content onto microfiche or some other medium. The notion that some sort of eternal "access service" is required is due to the decision made by the publishers who did not want to release electronic copying rights to their customers. So why should I be paying more for a choice that the publisher made to limit what I (as an institution) could do with a publication?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42888135)

In the days of print journals, it worked about the same. The journals kept records of all past articles, and you could request copies of them. For those with membership access, it was really cheap, not much more than postage. If you wanted a whole issue or wanted to get a reproduction for use outside of those with membership access, it would cost more, on par with the prices they want now to read a single article without access.

And if you are just using a journal for hosting purposes, there is no reason to rely on them to do that now in many fields, closed access or not. At least in the journals I've worked with in engineering, physics, and astronomy topics, they allow you to post a copy of your preprint wherever as long as it is not another journal that charges money for access. The "eternal access service" is not due to decisions by the publisher related to them limiting electronic copies, because they still do it when such limits don't exist. It is just an additional service, to give a unified, searchable front to the database they already have anyways, even if other article database systems have such information too.

It seems kind of irrelevant in the end though, as the hosting cost is not usually a large fraction of the cost for open access publishing under traditional journals, it instead has to do more with their use of full time staff and/or profits.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884139)

I'm not quite clear on where the $3000 per article costs are coming from though. Reviewers aren't paid in most journals. Printing costs aren't an issue: I'm not sure many journals still offer print versions aside from the really big name ones, and I suspect they'll be going online-only shortly. I'm not sure how much editors get paid. That might be quite the racket, but I get the impression that a lot of editors do it for cheap or free. I can't imagine copy editors get paid that much.

Some journals seem to spend a lot on promoting themselves at conferences and such. I'd assume that's where most of the costs come in. The journals run their own ads, so they should be generating revenue.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42886205)

Journals still have full time paid staff. Not just people who do the literal editing, formatting, and typesetting, but those that wrangle up reviewers and keep the review process in line. It is possible to replace this, especially the latter part, with volunteers. But it can take quite a bit of time to find appropriate reviewers in some fields, to keep an eye on how long various things are taking, and to deal with question and complaints about qualities of reviews or author's responses to reviews. Having done some similar stuff on a volunteer basis for a mini-conference, I don't think I would have time to do that year round, and although the process is some what parallelizable among enough volunteers, it loses some efficiency and consistency to do so.

That might not be enough to explain the full $3k though, as they are still a for-profit business in many cases.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (3, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883337)

hundred bucks isn't that much though, if others will consider this a "real" journal.
anyone can publish anything with practically no costs right now as well.

if the paper is really groundbreaking that would be enough, to upload it even on pastebin. very few papers are that groundbreaking though.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883431)

Paid by universities? And who pays them?

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

Mirk (184717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883949)

I agree that what we really want is a system where the price of publishing is part of the price of doing research. That is what we're moving towards as funding bodies increasingly allow publication fees to be covered by their grants. But even without this, charging to publish is much better than charging to read, because it's a non-monopoly market. When Elsevier charge $40 to read one of their articles, a reader doesn't have the choice of going to a different publisher: no other publisher has the specific article the reader needs. But when they charge $3000 to publish my article I can go to any rival that offers similar services, and find one that instead charges $1350 (PLOS ONE) or $99 (PeerJ).

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (4, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883959)

Charging authors to publish is not much better than charging people to read the articles

Every journal I am aware of that uses any kind of peer review process does this. This system, however, is a lot cheaper. I recently publised in PLoS ONE and I had to pay around $1,500 for that. I really hope these guys can keep their publication costs down and manage to acquire some prestige so they get indexed in relevant places.

What we truly need is a system that is paid for by universities, cooperatively, that allows anyone to submit a paper and allows anyone to download as many or as few papers as they would like.

Some journals have tried that - look at the institutional memberships at PLoS (my institution is not a member) and BioMedCentral for example - the problem with that though is that memberships like that would usually be paid for by the school libraries and quite nearly every school in this country is trying to reduce their library expenditures.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (2)

njvack (646524) | about a year and a half ago | (#42886637)

For what it's worth, I was tangentially part of an effort in the University of Wisconsin Libraries to publish the open-access Journal of Insect Science. After perhaps a year of doing that, we looked at the actual costs and found that, IIRC, $30-$100/page are not actually unreasonable costs. Yes, there's a large variance.

"How," you ask, "could it possibly cost so much to produce an open-access journal? The author is working for free! The reviewers are working for free!" Well:

  • The reviewers are generally not particularly excited to spend their time reviewing papers. They often say "sure" and then just never do the work. So you need to keep on them, and swap them out for other editors when they flake out. You need to do this without giving them a sad.
  • Different reviewers have different areas of expertise. So you need to match the content of the article to suitable reviewers. Your editor should do this, but probably isn't getting paid for that effort, and so you may need to keep on him/her to get that to actually happen.
  • Your authors don't know how to use word processing tools or graphic design tools. You'll get horribly-formatted documents, figures as 36-DPI .GIFs, strange-looking Powerpoint god-knows-whats, and gigantic tables that will never look good anywhere. Your job is to either guess at what the authors meant to do, reformat materials, and send them back for approval, or get your authors to re-do their stuff.
  • Authors also routinely ignore things like word count limits and organization guidelines.
  • While you're primarily targeting the Web, a good-looking print copy is still widely-valued. So you probably need to handle your layout nightmares twice.
  • Sometimes, people want to do Something Innovative with regard to data vis. After all, you're online, so you should be able to make this interactive, right? So, you need to decide if you want to try and implement this innovative thing (and what does that look like in print, anyhow?) or say "no, sorry, we can't make your research look super neat."
  • Online repositories work best with specially-marked-up XML. There are tools and services that will do this for you, but they all cost time, money, or both. XSLT to turn your XML into HTML or PDF can be made to automatically give you a product that is not quite nice enough to present to the outside world -- there are usually some special cases that want hand-massaging.
  • Both faculty and grad students can, at times, act like complete jerks and require a bunch of time in damage-control.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The bottom line was that we found PLOSOne's costs to be broadly reasonable (also: did you know you can essentially say "I don't want to pay" and... not pay?). Maybe it would be possible to undercut them by a factor of two with real work in process management, but generally: there's a bunch of grunt work turning researchers' paper submissions into a good quality journal. And you could get really fast at formatting, but time for catherding and massaging egos (so you don't lose your reviewers) scales linearly with the number of articles you publish.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884047)

eLife is a recently launched open access journal. They're funded by several universities, the publishing fees will be waived for a while, presumably until they build up enough steam to start charging for it (at least according to the rep I was talking to.) So they're sort of doing the experiment: if the journal flops immediately upon going pay-to-publish, or if it flops before then, that will be a test of how viable such a model would be.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

Phillip2 (203612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42888071)

They are funded by several grant bodies. I don't think elife is that much of an experiment, PLoS has already taken the middle costs of the market. eLife is aiming at nature and science.

The difference, I think, with peerj is that they are investing in technology. Even at $300 dollars for a paper (PeerJ charges per author), peer J is pretty cheap; it's possible that they have just found somewhere really cheap to outsource their type setting; alternatively, they have worked out a completely automatic system. I suspect the latter.

It is about time; most of the per paper costs of scientific publishing are in either the peer review, or the type setting. Both are amenable to technology; it's surprising that it has taken so long.

Re:Charging authors is not much better... (1)

SoothingMist (1517119) | about a year and a half ago | (#42885795)

A subscription (friends of the library) to your local university ($35 at ours) will yield free access to a huge repository of papers, from all the recognized publishers. Many universities have public access cafes that do not even require a subscription.

Hey! Checkout FreshMeat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883201)

Hey! Checkout FreshMeat(freecode). [freshmeat.net]

They launch dozens of projects that no one will ever use, every singe day.

Biological and Medical Sciences only (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883789)

From the FAQ [peerj.com] :

What subject areas do you cover:

PeerJ considers submissions of Research Articles in the Biological and Medical Sciences (this scope includes, for example, disciplines such as the life & biological sciences; biotechnology; basic medical sciences; medical specialties; health sciences and other similar fields).

Re:Biological and Medical Sciences only (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884805)

Those fields are perhaps the worst of the lot when it comes to open access, so I guess it's a good start. Physics, maths and comp sci almost always have preprints on arXiv, which are just as good as the real thing but free of charge.

Still hope more journals like this arise so that researchers don't need to pay extortionate fees to publish, though.

MEGAjournal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883849)

What? Kim Dotcom is now publishing journals?

In the old days, we suddenly had a "Mega Demo" on the Amiga... wonder what makes a journal a Mega Journal...

I have a theory (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884777)

All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much MUCH thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too. --Ann Elk, An expert

Megajournal? (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884873)

Megajournal? Must be one of the evil deeds of Kim Dotcom.

This gives a whole new meaning to "open access", incidentally...

mixed signals from science media... (1)

museumpeace (735109) | about a year and a half ago | (#42885229)

This publishing model already has some competition. Here is an article from a similar pay-to-publish-under-professional-editorship journal: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326 [iop.org]

My concerns with such models, despite the excellent credentials for the objectivity of the present crop of promoters/purveyors, is that as an author, you are buying your way into people's attention. It is difficult to imagine a fire wall separating advertising intentions from pure scientific communication that can really work when the motives are thus configured. And what on earth would keep a bunch of well funded liars like American Heritage Institute from buying up all the articles they want? Meanwhile out in real world of academic publishing [yes oxymoronic] it would appear that "Academic researchers want to make their papers open access for the world to read." is a bit off the mark: wisely or not, researchers often choose less-than-open journals for their papers [nature.com]

Re:mixed signals from science media... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42886551)

And what on earth would keep a bunch of well funded liars like American Heritage Institute from buying up all the articles they want?

Rejection by reviewers, or by the editors who have final say in such things, whether it is because the material is of poor quality or inappropriate for the journal. If too much bad material is allowed into the journal, researchers won't pay attention to the journal. This isn't any different than journals now and in the past.

Meanwhile out in real world of academic publishing [yes oxymoronic] it would appear that "Academic researchers want to make their papers open access for the world to read." is a bit off the mark: wisely or not, researchers often choose less-than-open journals for their papers [nature.com]

Yet every one of those licenses allows anyone in the world to read such papers, to response or criticize such papers, to cite, repeat, or continue work in such papers. To present difference in such licenses as preventing basic access to such work is either naive or disingenuous.

Re:mixed signals from science media... (1)

Mirk (184717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42887371)

"What on earth would keep a bunch of well funded liars like American Heritage Institute from buying up all the articles they want?"

Peer-review. PeerJ is particularly good on this, in that it allows the whole peer-review history of papers to be published alongside the final version: the original submission, the reviews, the handling editor's decision, the authors' rebuttal letter and revision, subsequent editorial comments, etc. As an example, you can see this audit trail [peerj.com] for our own PeerJ paper on sauropod necks [peerj.com] .

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