PeerJ launches open access into a new realm

A service that is travelling along similar lines of what I’m interested in for open publishing has launched today. PeerJ is being pitched as a cross between PLoS ONE and arXiv and indeed the company was founded by former PLoS ONE and Mendeley folk. It’s an interesting model where authors signup with a pre-paid plan. $99 gets you unlimited public preprints and 1 peer reviewed paper per year. $169 adds unlimited private preprints and another paper per year. $259 ups you to unlimited publications. And its nice as you can chose to pay once your paper is accepted (see how it works) so an author isn’t just being fleeced. There also appear to be reasonable plans for large numbers of co-authors etc. They also require members to review once per year. Nice.

I’m still reading through all of the materials about it myself, and there’s a lot here to digest and meditate on. It still appears that review is not open – both before and after ‘publication’ – although you can publish the review-trail and previous versions along with the finished product if you’d like. But in general, this is pretty fantastic

Here are some links about the launch and useful additional reading. I’d love to know what folk out there think. Will you be using it? Time to put our money where our #openaccess mouths are? I’m thinking yes!

  • PeerJ Blog
  • PeerJ formally announced: Innovative new business model for open access at Confessions of a Science Librarian
  • An interview with the founders of PeerJ, an innovative new academic publishing startup at the Mendeley Blog
  • Scholarly Publishing 2012: Meet PeerJ at Publishers Weekly
  • Interview with Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt of PeerJ at Confessions of a Science Librarian
  • PeerJ – a brave new world? at Reciprocal Space
  • Pay (less) to publish: ambitious journal aims to disrupt scholarly publishing at Ars Technica
  • Scientific Journal Offers Flat Fee to Authors for ‘All You Can Publish’ at SciAm
  • New OA Journal, Backed by O’Reilly, May Disrupt Academic Publishing
  • The Publishing Buffet

    My question to you all – does this new entry to the publishing market solve everything? Is it a panacea? Are there things you wish it did better, or is it just the right balance?

  • 6 thoughts on “PeerJ launches open access into a new realm

    1. Wasn’t there a very similar website starting up lately, where your submissions would be reviewed by some “peers”, with the idea that you could make them public or not, and that you could also forward your reviews to journal editors later?

      Anyway, I think it doesn’t sound too bad, but it leaves a few questions open to me, for example: do they really want to be a journal, or do they want to be a “peer-reviewed” preprint server? I can see the point of having universal open-review preprint server below the journals, but to run a good journal, the main thing is imo still scope, good editors and good reviewers, and about that I find little information so far.

      The main message for me seems at the moment that they offer relatively cheap OA publications with a somewhat weird pricing model. The fact that each author needs to be a member is a bit unfortunate, I can already see people go cracy if all 8 coauthors have to handle the payment through their institutes. And if you calculate, 8 x 100$ membership for a paper is not so little, considering that other lower-end OA publishers publish around 25$ per page. So, whether this is really a bargain will probably depend on what layout quality they’ll offer.

    2. So, I think you’re referring to Peerage of Science where, once you are asked to become a peer (n.b., I am one), it functions as a preprint server with open review.

      I think they are trying to be a journal in the way that PLoS ONE is a journal – big tent for lots of subject areas. They fully launch this summer, so we’ll see how their editorial structure is setup.

      As for authorship, if you have more than 12 authors, every author beyond the 12 does not have to pay. So, it’s $1200 to publish one paper at most. Which is less than most of the other OA alternatives out there. And, heck, if everyone on your paper already has a paid up lifetime membership, it’s FREE to publish an OA paper. I mean, $300 for a lifetime of access – if this journal takes off, that’s pretty durned cheap (although I’m guessing it will go up in the future – get in while the gettin’s good, I guess).

    3. Ah, yes, Peerage of Science was what I meant.

      You’re right, it is cheap, but I still think that it depends on the quality of typesetting and the editorial if it is ridiculously cheap. I would say if they go for medicine, the average paper has probably 4 authors, and maybe 2 of them will publish only once in PeerJ because they drop out of the system after their PhD or PostDoc, so we might be looking at maybe 250$ per publication – cheap compared to PLOS, but in the range of other low-end OA publishers. So, I’m curious to see / hear some experience about the editorial process and the typesetting when they’re up and running. I don’t think that what I consider well run OA models such as PLOS or http://www.biogeosciences.net/submission/service_charges.html are throwing their money in the gutter either, so it’s not clear to me how PeerJ can be so much cheaper without making some compromises in quality.

      Apart from that, the subscription system doesn’t seem a positive innovation to me. It’s a cheap subscription system, granted, but forget the cheap for the moment – would you prefer it if PLOS changed to such a lifetime membership system? It’s clear that this distributes costs unfairly, because some people stay in science and/or keep on publishing with PeerJ, some drop out, and, as you say, they will probably raise prices later. And why should the same paper be charged with higher costs if it has more authors, taking aside the fact that I am pretty sure that busy Prof X from Uni Y who is a coauthor on my paper will be annoyed if I tell him that he has to register at PeerJ and he has to deal with his University bureaucracy to make the payments and so on. Paying per page or publication seems far more just and easy to me.

      So, I don’t want to be too negative – it’s great to have another OA and open peer review journal, but so far it seems their main innovation is in the payment system, and I don’t think it’s the payment system or the costs that are preventing OA from taking off. What we need is quality publishing and more of the quality society journals switching to OA, because I think it is still those that publish the important papers in ecology, and I don’t see how this is addressed by having another, maybe cheaper PLOSone.

      • The trouble with having a selective version of PLoS One (which I take it what you’re looking for when you suggest that “quality society journals” switch to open access) is that it’s a money loser. When you reject a paper, you reject the fee the author would pay if the paper were published. So if you reject most submissions, you don’t get much revenue. PLoS tried this with PLoS Biology. They invented PLoS ONE because PLoS Biology wasn’t covering its costs (even with very high publication fees–well over $2000 per paper, IIRC). Now, they use PLoS ONE to subsidize PLoS Biology.

        And even if you went to a PeerJ-type pricing model, how many authors do you think would pay a fee to join an organization that rejects most of their papers?

        Now, you can say that you envision open access being paid for in some other way besides author fees–but I haven’t heard any really viable suggestions on this.

        Also worth noting that the ESA recently started a new open-access journal based on an author-pays model. As I recall, it’s cheaper than PLoS One. It’s unclear how selective it is. The ESA claims it has the same editorial standards as Ecology and Ecological Monographs, which would make it highly selective. But frankly it’s pretty obvious that that can’t be true in practice. If you just look at what they’re publishing, it’s clear that they’re accepting lots of stuff that Ecology and Ecological Monographs would reject. Presumably, authors are not submitting their best stuff to this new journal, and if you want to have a journal at all you can’t reject 100% of submissions. I admit that I’m mystified why the ESA would start such a journal, since as noted above PLoS Biology already tried this model and found that it couldn’t cover costs.

        I’m all in favor of competition on price to push down author fees to publish in open-access journals. A big reason I don’t submit to PLoS One is price. But on the other hand, I find selective journals to be a useful and effective way to filter the literature and keep me from having to sift through lots of rubbish to locate the stuff I really need to read. And unfortunately, the evidence so far suggests you can’t have a selective, open access, author-pays journal that covers its costs, much less competes on price with PloS One and PeerJ.

    4. Vindicated as I feel that PeerJ does require some reviewing/commenting of its members (http://oikosjournal.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/great-minds-think-alike-when-theyre-trying-to-fix-peer-review/), they don’t require members to match the amount of reviewing/commenting they do to the amount they submit.

      Nor do they (as far as I know) have any mechanism to ensure that reviews and comments are substantive. Just writing “This paper is wrong” would seem to count as a review.

      I wonder if these two features will cause them to run into problems getting enough substantive reviews.

    5. Pingback: Around the Web: PeerJ-orama [Confessions of a Science Librarian] « Random Information

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