There is no consolidation on the journal front in sight. Rather, new (open access) journals are popping up all over the place. While I’d be happy to dismiss them all on the grounds of adding to the paper flood, it seems that we need these new players to get some changes going in the complacent system of established publishers; because at least some of those newcomers deliver real innovations while established journals seem unable to move. For example, I LOVE the option of PeerJ to comment on particular parts of a paper, this is GREAT, why can’t we have this everywhere?
In this spirit, I was looking at the latest addition to the journal ecosystem: Peerage of Science has create a new outlet, called “Proceedings of Peerage of Science” (henceforth ProcPoS). Under “Why another journal?”, the website states that
ProcPoS is different from other scientific journals. It does not publish new results, nor reviews of a particular topic, nor meta-analyses.
Instead, ProcPoS takes aim at already published research. ProcPoS publishes Commentaries, only. It is a platform for proper post-publication peer review.
In fact, ProcPoS is not publishing any commentary, but only material from reviews that have been written through Peerage of Science EDIT: this was a wrong interpretation of me, ProcPoS is publishing both reviews that have been written for Peerage of Science and commentary that has been submitted externally to Peerage of Science.
The main entry site looks all flashy and modern (see above), so no complaints there, and articles layout (see below) is fine, nothing special, but readable. The articles are OA and published with a business model that they call “Public Patronage Open Access”. I found the explanation on the website rather cryptic, but it seems you don’t have to pay for publishing, and you might even get some money back from people (patrons) that sponsor the article. Looking at the articles (see below), “patron” seems very much an euphemism for “advertiser” if you ask me, but OK, who cares if that makes the whole thing free. The way I understand it if someone (or a community) cares about the ads, they could always remove the ads by becoming a patron themselves.
So, is this what progress looks like? Unlike some other voices, I’m generally in favor of post-publication peer review. I don’t think it’s a replacement for per-publication screening, so I would say keep a pre-publication review for quality, but at the same time I think we urgently need to evaluate and consolidate more thoroughly what is written and measured instead of piling up “novelties”. I also think that it is generally useful to have reviews openly published, regardless of pre or post publication. In that sense, ProcPoS seems to be on the right track.
However, I also see a number of major problems with this new journal. First of all, the whole point of making reviews available is a) to draw attention to potential problems with a paper, and b) to get a discussion going. From that, I think fundamental requirements are a) to have links from the original publication to the comments b) to be able to comment on comments. Both points, as far as I understand, are not available through ProcPoS. Plus, it seems to me that publishing only selected reviews doesn’t make sense, why not make them all available?
In conclusion, the funding model is interesting, and in general it can’t be bad if people can make sensible comments about published research in a citable way. In an ideal world, I think the community would be better served by publishing comments and open reviews directly with the original publication, and allowing additional comments afterwards, which is supported by more and more journals. And, we also have already PubPeer, Publons or the arXiv as alternative outlets for commentary. But then again, beware of the Nirvana fallacy – as long as this doesn’t work perfect either, why not try out new things?
Hence, I wish ProcPoS all the best, while hoping it will become obsolete soon because publishers will integrate its functions in the existing journals.