New Publishing Venture Gives Researchers Control Over Access

Researchers: Joining the open-access club just got easier. For a modest fee, authors can buy “lifetime rights” to publish their work in a new open-access, peer-reviewed journal-and-preprint service called PeerJ.

The venture, which made its public debut today, will focus on the biological and medical sciences. Authors must become PeerJ members to publish with the journal, but membership doesn’t guarantee publication; all articles must go through peer review and meet a basic standard of scientific quality.

Emphasizing open access, PeerJ leaves the rights in authors’ hands and gives them control over when and how to share preprints of their articles. “Instead of charging you each time you publish, we ask for a single one-off payment, giving you the lifetime right to publish articles with us and to make those articles freely available,” the PeerJ Web site explains.

With its emphasis on openness and on publishing as much good as work it can, PeerJ shares some of its philosophy with the leading open-access journal, PLos One. That’s no surprise: PeerJ is the brainchild of Peter Binfield (on the left in the picture), a publishing veteran who until recently was publisher of PLoS One, and Jason Hoyt (right), a geneticist and former chief scientist and vice president for research at Mendeley, a research-management tool.

They have financial backing from O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and O’Reilly Media, whose founder, Tim O’Reilly, sits on PeerJ’s governing board. (Mr. Binfield and Mr. Hoyt are the other two board members.)

“It’s the next step in open access,” Mr. Binfield said in an interview. “We’ve flipped the payment model from a payment per publication to a payment per individual membership. That creates very different dynamics within the company” and encourages a community of members, he said. “It’s a very different psychological dynamic for authors.”

The PeerJ model looks radically different from that used by traditional, subscription-based journals. It also departs from the kind of open-access publishing that requires authors to shoulder publication fees for each article.

Good for a lifetime, PeerJ memberships begin at $99. The lowest tier allows an author to publish one article per year in PeerJ’s journal and one private preprint via PeerJ’s preprint server; there’s no limit on public preprints. For $169, an author gets two articles a year and unlimited private and public preprints. The highest tier, priced at $259, places no limits on preprints or on the number of articles an author can publish with PeerJ.

“We’re giving a full suite of access controls to the author,” Mr. Binfield said. “We’re putting the author in charge of what to release.”

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