Monday, June 27, 2011

New #openaccess journals welcome; competition good; not sure how they know it is "top tier" though

Great news from HHMI, The Wellcome Trust and the Max Planck:

Leading Research Organizations Announce Top-Tier, Open Access Journal for Biomedical and Life Sciences

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust announced today that they are to support a new, top-tier, open access journal for biomedical and life sciences research.

The three organizations aim to establish a new journal that will attract and define the very best research publications from across these fields. All research published in the journal will make highly significant contributions that will extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

A team of highly regarded, experienced and actively practicing scientists will ensure fair, swift and transparent editorial decisions followed by rapid online publication. The first issue of the journal, whose name has yet to be decided, is expected to be published in the summer of 2012.

The three research organizations developed their plans following a workshop in 2010 at HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus attended by a number of leading scientists. The participants concluded that there was a need for a model of academic publishing that better suits the needs of the research community.

Dr. Robert Tjian, President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, says: "The message from the research community was clear: we are fortunate to have many excellent journals, but there is need for a different, more appropriate and efficient publishing model."

Professor Herbert J├Ąckle, Vice President of the Max Planck Society, says: "A journal which aims to represent and publish the very best research outcomes needs an editorial team of experienced – and, crucially, actively practicing – scientists. It must also be editorially independent of those who provide the financial support."

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "We will attract the most outstanding science for publication by establishing a journal in which researchers have confidence in robust editorial decisions taken by their scientific peers. This will be a journal for scientists edited by scientists. The ethos of the journal will be to avoid asking authors to make extensive modifications or perform endless additional experiments before a paper can be published."

Recruitment is under way for an Editor-in-Chief who – together with the journal's editorial team – will be an experienced, active scientist. The editorial team will be editorially independent of the funders. They will rely on their scientific expertise and active research experience to identify the best papers, make scientifically-based judgments and exercise leadership in steering these papers through peer review.

The journal will employ an open and transparent peer review process in which papers will be accepted or rejected as rapidly as possible, generally with only one round of revisions, and with limited need for modifications or additional experiments. For transparency, reviewers' comments will be published anonymously.

As the journal will only exist online, it offers an opportunity to create a journal and article format that will exploit the potential of new technologies to allow for improved data presentation. The journal will be an open access journal, i.e. the entire content will be freely available for all to read, to reproduce and for unrestricted use. This open access system will also enhance opportunities to share content and to more directly engage the reader.

The three organizations have made a commitment to cover costs of launching the journal to ensure its success. The long-term business model will be developed by the incoming Editor-in-Chief and the team they build.

This is great news.  The more #openaccess journals we have the better.  Clearly some of the text here is a dig at existing journals, including PLoS Biology.  PLoS Biology definitely needs to work on some things - like transparency (e.g., if your article is rejected, the Academic Editor who advised the professional editors is not names).  PLoS Biology is also run by professional editors.  Thus it is not run by "active scientists" which is another one of the comments in this press release.  Personally I think it would be better if PLoS Biology was run by active scientists.  But that is not the system there.  I have a strange role at PLoS Biology - "Academic Editor in Chief" for a journal not run by academics.  In essence I am a senior advisor to the professionals who run the journal.  I personally would prefer it if academics ran the journal, probably for the same reasons that HHMI, Wellcome, and Max Planck make such a big deal out of it here.  But the professionals do run PLoS Biology.  And overall, they do a good job.  I think the journal could certainly be better - and thus this new competition should be good.  We will have to wait and see just how much competition it is.  It seems a bit weird for them to call this a "top tier" journal before it exists.  Maybe they should have said "aiming to be a top tier journal" or something like that.  But I think it probably will become one if HHMI and Wellcome and MaxPlanck scientists start publishing their good papers there.  I hope this helps catalyze some beneficial changes at PLoS Biology, but we will have to wait and see.

It is a good time for #OpenAccess when major organizations start to compete to create the best "top tier" open access journal.  In the end, this can only be good for science and scientists. 


  1. "PLoS Biology definitely needs to work on some things - like transparency (e.g., if your article is rejected, the Academic Editor who advised the professional editors is not named)."

    Really? the AE is named in PLoS One (which has resulted in angry emails to me by disappointed authors). Odd that the policy isn't consistent across all PLoS journals


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