Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Research Intelligence - Open Vistas Create a 'Living Body' of Work

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Research Intelligence - Open Vistas Create a 'Living Body' of Work

Article excerpt

A low-cost open-access journal aims to modernise the act of publication. Paul Jump reports.

Just days before publication of the Finch group's report on access to research, the announcement of yet another groundbreaking new open-access journal in biomedicine suggests that, in that field at least, the momentum is unstoppable.

As reported in last week's Times Higher Education, researchers will be able to publish an unlimited number of papers in PeerJ for a one-off fee of $259 (about Pounds 165) - rising to $299 in September.

The right to publish a paper every year can be bought for just $99. It will even be granted for free if an author is from a very poor country.

The announcement of the launch came just a few weeks before the first call for papers is expected from eLife, the top-tier open-access biomedical journal founded recently by the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society. Initially, authors will pay nothing for publication, but a sustainable business model for the journal will be developed eventually.

The Faculty of 1000, a post-publication peer-review organisation in biomedicine, declared earlier this year that it too would launch a radical open-access journal, F1000 Research, which would embrace outputs such as negative results and replications of previous studies that journals typically reject.

Its first articles are set to go live in the next few weeks, and a formal launch will follow later this year.

Bioscience is also well served by the stable of BioMed Central open-access titles from publisher Springer.

Indeed, Peter Binfield, a co-founder of PeerJ, admitted that the greater understanding and acceptance of open access in biomedicine was one reason why PeerJ will focus on that field - although he noted that about two- thirds of all papers published were in biomedicine.

In contrast to F1000 Research, which plans to impose "highly competitive" article charges, Dr Binfield and his business partner, Jason Hoyt - former chief scientist at Mendeley, the academic reference manager and social- networking site - have concluded that the "perfect publishing operation" would instead embrace a membership scheme.

Doing so will force PeerJ to treat all authors - not just the corresponding author - as "customers" and will allow it to help individuals track, and showcase, their full involvement as authors, reviewers and academic editors, Dr Binfield said.

It can't be that low

It was the eye-catchingly low cost of its membership scheme that earned headlines when PeerJ was unveiled.

Some observers were quick to highlight the contrast between PeerJ's $99 membership and the $5,000 open-access fee charged by some highly selective journals, but others have argued that the comparison is unfair, given the costs that top titles incur in handling large numbers of papers that are ultimately rejected - and from which, therefore, they derive no income.

But Mike Taylor, an open-access advocate and a palaeontologist affiliated with the University of Bristol, said PeerJ's prices "blow out of the water" even the $1,350 article fee charged by PLoS ONE, the giant open- access journal whose policy of accepting every scientifically sound submission - which amounts to about 70 per cent of all those it receives - will be replicated by PeerJ.

To publish a paper in PeerJ, all authors must be PeerJ members, although the requirement stops at 12 in order to avoid penalising submissions with large numbers of authors. Dr Binfield, who is the former publisher of PLoS ONE, noted that papers in biomedicine typically have about seven authors. …

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