PeerJ is a biological open access journal – backed by an excellent publishing team, an advisory board replete with luminaries, and a diverse editorial board – that also happens to come with some interesting twists that are bound to change the scientific publishing paradigm.
First, instead of paying an open access publishing fee for each paper that is accepted, authors each pay a lifetime membership fee (paid memberships start at US$99). If you and your co-authors have a membership, you can publish in PeerJ. In order to keep up your membership, you need to regularly participate in journal activities such as editing, reviewing, or commenting on articles. In other words, with one membership you can publish open access articles in PeerJ for life.
That, in itself, is a twist that makes PeerJ unique.
The second twist – and the one that I’d like to briefly focus on here – is PeerJ PrePrints.
A preprint is a not-yet-peer-reviewed version of a manuscript that is placed on a public server for early dissemination to the rest of the scientific community. Preprints serve to provide early access by other researchers to data, results, and interpretations. They allow for pre-review discussion and criticism of the ideas that, if taken to heart by the authors, serve to strengthen the manuscript for eventual peer review and publication. And, when uploaded to a recognized preprint service, preprints set a date-stamped precedent for the ideas that they contain. To great extent, a preprint is simply a conference presentation or poster in formal manuscript form with broader access and better DOI-based citation/recognition.
Physicists, astronomers, computer scientists, and mathematicians (to name a few) have dealt in preprints for many years now. For some reason, the biological sciences have languished behind in this regard. But things are changing. Rapidly.
And PeerJ has played a major role in that change over the past year.
As of this post, there are 29 PeerJ PrePrints at the journal site, some of which are in their V.2 or V.3 forms (yes, you can update your preprint as you receive comments, etc.). That list is bound to grow in the coming years.
Keep an eye on PeerJ. It’s going places. I’m hoping that my lab will soon submit a few preprints and journal articles, and I hope that you are considering it as well.
NOTE #1: While the world of biological academic publishing is changing in regard to preprints, there are still some hold-out journals which either have ambiguous policies or which flat-out reject papers that have been published as preprints. You can use these tools – here and here – to make decisions regarding preprinting of your upcoming manuscript.
NOTE #2: At the membership link, you’ll have noticed that there is a free membership that allows you to submit one public PeerJ Preprint per year. So it’s a great way to try out the system without spending a single dime.