PeerJ journal: Path-breaking move

Published in The Hindu on February 14, 2013

Call it by whatever name — innovation, revolution or evolution — PeerJ , the new Open Access journal, which published the first 30 peer-reviewed papers on February 12, is breaking new grounds in academic publishing. Hold your breath, a scientific paper in the field of biology and medical sciences can be published for as little as $99. The low publication fee removes one of the last barriers in making OA publishing the most successful model.

The concept of charging a small amount is based on the premise that “if society can set a goal to sequence a human genome for just $99 then why shouldn’t academics be given the opportunity to openly publish their research for a similar amount?”

To publish a paper, each author has to be a member. However, when a paper contains 13 or more authors, only 12 authors need to pay the fee. Three membership options are made available — $99 for one publication a year, $199 for two publications a year and $299 for unlimited publications a year.

Compare this with other models: subscription journals are behind paywalls and require readers to pay a huge price to read the content. Open Access journals, in general, require authors to pay a certain amount. In the case of PLoS ONE , authors are charged about $1,400 per paper, which is waived in deserving cases.

So, compared with these two models, the PeerJ model offers the best of both worlds — Open Access plus very low publication fee. If the Open Access model is experimenting with several options, this one for now, takes the cake. True, only time will tell if this model will survive and serve the interests of the scientific community and go on to becoming a benchmark for low-cost OA models.

According to Nature , every PeerJ member is required to peer review at least one paper a year. By adopting this model, the journal effectively tackles the problem of shortage of peer reviewers.

PeerJ has been launched by Jason Hoyt (formerly at Medeley) and Peter Binford (formerly at PLoS ONE ). It has an Editorial Board comprising 800 academics and 20 Advisory Board members.

Sharing his experience in The Guardian blog, Micheal Taylor, the author of one of the 30 papers in PeerJ, notes: “In a move towards increasing transparency, the peer reviews, our response letters and the handling editor’s comments are all online alongside the paper. This is good not only because it shows that no corners were cut, but also because the reviewers can receive the credit they deserve for their contributions.”