There has been a lot of buzz lately about how journal publishers are making exorbitant profit margins over scientists’ hard work and how at the same time they prevent tax-payers from accessing the work that they sponsored. Although multiple open-access journals already exist, a major hurdle (aside from the impact factor obsession for those aspiring a scientific career) is the cost of publishing in such a journal, which is usually charged to the author. PeerJ, officially launched today, plans to disrupt this market by charging a one-time $99 fee for lifetime rights to publish in the open-access journal. Inspired by PloS One, PeerJ accepts papers solely based on scientific and methodological rigor and not perceived impact. The focus of PeerJ will be on the biological and medical sciences.
PeerJ‘s publishing model has been made possible by making the maximum use of modern technology. The journal will use customized software for the article submission and peer review process, and, except for a few servers for internal use, everything will be in the Amazon cloud with data stored on Amazon’s S3 service and presented to users via software running on EC2. Long-term archiving happens at the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central archive.
There are a few catches: although the basic plan is $99, that allows you to publish only one paper a year. Two papers a year will cost you $169 and for $259 you can publish as much as you want. In addition, each author of a paper needs to be a member (up to a maximum of 12). Lastly, you need to review at least one other paper each year to keep your membership active.
Although some of the above may sound like a wild experiment in publishing, PeerJ‘s two founders are no strangers to this industry. The first is Peter Binfield, under whose leadership PloS One became the largest scientific journal in the world and the second is Jason Hoyt, former Chief Scientist/VP of R&D at Mendeley. Financially PeerJ is backed by none less than Tim O’Reilly.
PeerJ will begin accepting submissions in the fields of biology and medicine in the summer and with actual publishing starting in December. PeerJ articles will be indexed in all major databases, including PubMed, PubMedCentral, Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. Although the academic world is a conservative one which will not be easy to disrupt, PeerJ certainly has the potential to shape the future of research publishing.