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The Media Science

PeerJ, A New Open Access Megajournal Launches 61

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tim-oreilly-super-hero dept.
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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PeerJ, A New Open Access Megajournal Launches

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  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:33AM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:40AM (#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.

      • The smallness of the amount is relative. My family of two academics clears about $200 a month, and we don't own a home, have car payments, cable payments, nor do we make any retirement contributions (and we're in our 40s). In other words, we live as cheaply as possible and are not in a good economic situation. And this fee would knock out a half of what we can save in a month. Of course, ideally, university's would cover the fees charged to their faculty for such publications, and that would likely be the c
        • Yeah... you would just add this fee into your grant application. Shouldn't be too difficult. Also, it would only really take about 8-9$ per month.

      • Yawn. 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,

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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 fol

        • by Phillip2 (203612)

          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.

    • by ph0rk (118461)
      Allows anyone to submit a paper? Who will review them?
      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:54AM (#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.
        • "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.
      • by SomePgmr (2021234)

        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.

      • 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 do

    • 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.

      • 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

        • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @11:13AM (#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.

          • by Mprx (82435)
            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.
            • 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.

            • by c0d3g33k (102699)

              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

            • 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.
            • by naroom (1560139)

              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.

        • by dkf (304284)

          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 the

          • 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 wh

      • 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
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:49AM (#42883337) Homepage Journal

      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.

    • by Mirk (184717)
      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
    • 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.

      • by njvack (646524)

        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
    • 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.
      • by Phillip2 (203612)

        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

    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @11:26AM (#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).

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      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.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @12:43PM (#42884777) Homepage Journal
    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? Must be one of the evil deeds of Kim Dotcom.

    This gives a whole new meaning to "open access", incidentally...
  • 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 whe
    • by Mirk (184717)
      "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 sauropo [peerj.com]

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