Thursday, January 16, 2014

Moving towards Open Access...

In physics and mathematics, publishing Preprints of papers in the arXiv is the most common form of distributing scientific papers. All the major journals in those areas have therefore been "forced" to accept papers previously available as preprints.
In Chemistry and Biology, however, most journals do not accept preprints and therefore authors are quite loath to make their work available as a preprint. The lack of this "free preprint" culture then enables journals to keep increasing their subscription prices way above inflation levels, which further gives publishers an extra incentive to keep rejecting sound work that might otherwise be available as costless preprints. This is a classic instance of Catch-22.
I believe that, as authors, we should do our utmost to fight this status quo. Our science should be evaluated on its merits, rather than on the accidental name of the journal where it has appeared. Therefore, I will henceforth submit all my Biochemistry work to PeerJ / PeerJPrePrints. PeerJ is an innovative and remarkably inexpensive Open Access Publisher with transparent peer-review and the option of publishing the paper's reviews alongside the manuscript.  The integrity of the reviewing process is therefore above reproach, ensuring that it will be both rigorous and fair.
PeerJ does not (yet?) accept submissions outside the field of Biology. My Chemistry work must continue to be submitted elsewhere. I am thinking of given the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry a shot: completely free, open access, and rigorous. It does not have a stellar IF (around 2.8, I think), but who cares? Playing the IF game is ultimately detrimental to quick publication, as several journals insist on publishing only the "extra-sexy" work to prevent their IFs from falling, and often even refuse to send manuscripts for review simply because some editor feels they are not "hot" enough (ACS, I am talking to you....)

The power to change is, after all, in our hands. It may be a very small amount of power, and the odds of effecting any change may be vanishingly small, but if we do not use it, nothing will change for sure.


  1. Good for you!

    I have published 3 papers in PeerJ (with a 4th under review) and am very happy with the ease of submission and fast reviews.

    For the non-bio stuff I usually go with PLoS ONE where I often ask for a full or partial fee waiver.

  2. I had not seriously considered PLOS One because I wonder what would happen if the waiver request were rejected.

    1. I've never been refused a partial or complete fee waiver and as far as I know it's completely separated from the publishing decision. A few times I settled the fee business after the paper appeared on line.

      It's very easy to ask for one:

  3. You might also considerbioRxiv (pronounced "bio-archive"), the free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences. It's operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution.