Research Foundations Get Into the Journal Game; Aim to Shake It Up

The Wellcome Trust, The Max Planck Institute, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute are working together on a new top-tier research journal (H/T Trading Knowledge).  Besides the sponsorship of three non-profit research foundations, there are some important distinctions with this journal (assuming quality submissions).

The editorial team, from the top down, will be practicing research scientists.  While not unique to academic journals, this will distinguish the new effort from a major open access competitor – Public Library of Science.  They use professional editors.  As ScienceInsider reports, the editor-in-chief (Randy W. Schekman) works half-time on the journal, and the editorial board members will have twenty percent of their time committed to the journal.  The rest of their time will see the editorial staff in their labs.  Reviewers may be paid as well.

Full editorial separation from the sponsors.  While the three foundations will support the journal’s costs for the first three years of its operations, it will not determine the direction of the journal or insist on preferential treatment for researchers supported by its funds.

Where this journal may make its mark (for good or for ill) is in a rapid-fire editorial process.  As described in the initial announcement:

“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.”

While anonymity and transparency don’t necessarily go together, having reviewers’ comments published certainly makes the editorial process of this journal more transparent.

So, why do I publicize these journals?  Call it enlightened self-interest.  I think open access is a good idea, and good to a blogger like me who doesn’t have institutional access nor available cash to access quality research and related news.