PeerJ

Precocious One Year Old Turning Academic Publishing On Its Head

Puneet Kishor, February 12th, 2014

 

“If we can set a goal to sequence the Human Genome for $99, then why shouldn’t we demand the same goal for the publication of research?”

 

PeerJ logo started with that bold challenge. Now, the scrappy startup that dared has done it. One year old today, PeerJ, the peer-reviewed journal, has seen startling growth having published 232 articles under CC-BY 3.0 last year. By the way, per Scimago that number is more than what 90% of any other journal publishes in a year. Then in April 2013 PeerJ started publishing PeerJ PrePrints, the non-peer-reviewed preprint server with 186 PrePrints in 2013, all under CC BY 3.0.

Now PeerJ has more than 800 Academic Editors, from a wide variety of countries and institutions. There are also five Nobel Prize winners on the PeerJ Board. PeerJ receives submissions from all over the world, and covers all of the biological, health, medical sciences. As of the time of this post’s publication, the top subject areas for PeerJ submissions were

Subject Articles
Ecology 106
Bioinformatics 69
Evolutionary Studies 66
Zoology 54
Computational Biology 49
Microbiology 48
Psychiatry and Psychology 47
Marine Biology 45
Biodiversity 45
Biochemistry 45

Not everything has been easy. Starting an entire publishing company from scratch has been a learning experience for the entire team. From no brand recognition, no history, no infrastructure etc. to having successfully established themselves in all the places that a publishing company should be in: archiving solutions; DOI issuing services; indexing services; membership of professional bodies; ISSN registrations etc. PeerJ has done very well. Last year PeerJ won the ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation.

PeerJ’s vision/mission are deceptively simple:

  • Keep Innovating
  • Remember Whom We Serve
  • Pass on the Savings
Interpretive drawing of DNHM D2945 Hongshanornis longicresta

PeerJ decision-making process is fast, very fast. Authors get their first decision back in a median of 24 days. Being small, and non-traditional means they can take risks. They have built interesting functionality and models such as optional open peer review; Their business model is based on individuals purchasing low cost lifetime publication plans, and that has resulted in a lot of their functionality being very individual-centric.

Compared to traditional publishers, PeerJ is a very tech-focused company. They built all the technology themselves, quite unusual in the academic publishing world, which normally uses third parties for their peer-review software and publication platforms. By doing it themselves they have much more control over their destiny, cost, and can build functionality which suits their unique needs. The high percentage of authors describing their experience with PeerJ as their best publishing experience is arguably a direct result of this. Much of PeerJ’s software is open source, and their techie roots are evident in their engagement with the community via events such as Hack4ac, a hackday to specifically celebrate, ahem, CC BY!

Peter Binfield, Co-Founder, says:

We firmly believe that Open Access publishing is the future of the academic journal publishing system. With the current trends we see in the marketplace (including governmental legislation; institutional mandates; the rapid growth of the major OA publishers; and the increasing education and desire from authors) we believe that Open Access content will easily make up >50% of newly published content in the next 4 or 5 years.

 
Once all academic content is OA and under an appropriate re-use license we believe that significant new opportunities will emerge for people to use this content; to build on it for new discoveries and products; and to accelerate the scientific discovery process.

Binfield continues:

We regard the CC-BY license as the gold standard for OA Publications. Some other publishers provide authors with “NC” options, or try to write their own OA licenses, but we have a firm belief in the CC BY flavor. If there are many different OA licenses in play then it becomes increasingly difficult for users to determine what rights they have for any given piece of work, and so it is cleaner and simpler if everyone agrees on a single (preferably liberal) license. We were pleased to see the license updated to 4.0 and were quick to adopt it.

In Jan 2014, PeerJ moved to CC BY 4.0 for all articles newly submitted from that point onwards (prior articles remain under CC BY 3.0 of course). Today, on PeerJ’s first birthday, we at CC send PeerJ our best wishes, and look forward to ever more courageous, even outrageous innovations from this precocious one year old.

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