Down with Glam; Up with Fast & Cheap

Apr 03 2013 Published by under Publication, Research issues

A lot of folks are trying to reinvent the way we share research. I cannot remember the last time I read a paper journal; even with traditional publishing models, the dead tree format ends up in the recycling. When I need to know something, I search online via PubMed or Google Scholar. Topics I want to keep up-to-date at all times have shared searches that update me periodically.

Some journals will now be online-only, either with a fairly traditional publishing model or a more liberal acceptance policy (PLoS One, for example). Platforms such as Figshare allow investigators to make raw data publicly available and citable, even if not included in the final paper for a study. Recently, Beyond the PDF 2 took place in Amsterdam where visionaries gathered to once again discuss the printing press of this century. More information can be found about this conference and conversation here.

PeerJAfter scanning this discussion, I began playing around with PeerJ. The model is intriguing; you pay a lifetime fee up front. You can freely pre-publish works (PeerJ PrePrints) and get public feedback . With a mouse-click, you can send your manuscript to peer review which will be based on scientific soundness of the research without attention to impact or "sex-appeal" factor of the work. The goal here is PLoS One without the high publication fees. For $99 you can become a basic lifetime member, able to submit unlimited public "pre-publications" and publish one peer-reviewed article for life. Of course, you will be expected to also review at least one article for life. All authors on the article must have memberships; if you wait until article acceptance to join, fees will be ~30% greater. Right now, content in PeerJ is limited to biomedical science and health issues. PeerJ only publishes research articles. Literature review articles, commentaries, case reports and other works may instead be submitted to PeerJ PrePrints.

My biggest concern took some digging about the web site:

PeerJ will be indexed in all major Abstracting & Indexing databases, including for example PubMed, PubMedCentral, GoogleScholar, and Microsoft Academic Search. We will also be applying for indexed status in services such as MedLine and Web of Science.

This model certainly has the right price; $99 runs less than the page fees for my last journal submission. As a senior professor, this site may be perfect for some of my less impressive results that I just want to get out there. When I was early in my career, PeerJ would have let me get some new data peer-reviewed and published and still make my grant deadline.

What other new-wave publishing services deserve exploration? Any Whizbangers have experience with PeerJ or similar platforms?

3 responses so far

Value Added

Feb 13 2012 Published by under [Science in Society]

A few years back I decided I needed some business training to pursue my administrative goals. A big piece of this education included financial materials. One problem involved valuing a business.  Sure, you have the building and supplies and widgets, and usually some cash is on hand as well. However, businesses come with intangible assets. What is the name "Disney" worth, for example? How about "Enron," now versus 1998?

The only way to really find out the value of a business or other entity is to sell it. Like houses, they are worth whatever someone will pay.

In scientific publishing, someone has paid for the data before submission to the journal. What value does the journal add?

  • Peer-review - Yes, I realize most of this is done by volunteers, but there is infrastructure to maintain.
  • Editing - Do you put spaces on one or both sides of the "<" sign? Thanks to hired punctuation police, scientists do not have to think about this. Of course, most of us can get the message from the unedited manuscript (regardless of the quality of the grammar and kerning), so this function can be perceived as beautification with little true value.
  • Distribution - Costs are lower via the internet, but not yet zero. Even publishers have to buy servers and pay electric bills. We also expect the information to be maintained in perpetuity, no matter how few people access it.
  • Reputation - Each journal adds intangible value to the articles within, a value most difficult to quantify.

These are the things we pay for with subscriptions, page fees, and download prices. How do we judge what is fair? We can look to Open Access publications for an idea of the overall costs for the first three items. What we cannot learn as easily is the price of reputation. A publication in Nature may be worth $35 per download in perpetuity. Is a 5-year-old article in Pathophysiology (Impact Factor not available) really worth $22?

I am not certain what the solution will be. The internet has clearly disrupted publishing of all sorts, and scientific journals will not be exempt. Until that magical reputation factor drops lower in value, I doubt that the glamor rags will suffer.

2 responses so far