PeerJ author interview

Africa Gómez

I got my PhD in the University of Valencia (Spain) where I became a Lecturer 1996. In 2000 I moved to the University of Hull as a postdoc, where in 2004 I got an Advanced NERC Fellowship. I have been a lecturer at Hull since 2013. My research interests centre around evolutionary biology, including the phylogeography and population structure of aquatic invertebrates...

- View Africa's full list of contributions in PeerJ

We spoke to Dr Africa Gómez, senior author on Multiple global radiations in tadpole shrimps challenge the concept of ‘living fossils’. Dr Gómez is a NERC Advanced Fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Hull.

PJ: With this research, why did you choose to publish it in PeerJ rather than some other venue?

AG: We were interested in an Open Access, fast publication process and, from what we had gathered, PeerJ was able to offer both.

PJ: What opinion have you formed about the publishing process in general (from your prior experiences)

AG: My experience is that publishing a paper involves a very slow, draining process, where manuscripts may sit on somebody’s desk (reviewers or editors) for months at a time. Blind reviewing is a hit and miss process, with even small fields suffering from strong conflict of interests which are often not disclosed. It is a particularly frustrating experience for PhD students, which are very keen to have their first paper published during the duration of their postgraduate funding, to increase the chances for them to get a postdoc. The pressure to publish makes authors often do things to ‘keep the reviewer happy’ even if they disagree with them or it won’t make a difference. An additional perversion involves journals asking editors to act as blind reviewers, as this makes the editorial process intrinsically biased.

PJ: How did you first hear about PeerJ?

AG: I have published in Open Access journals since 2007 and I have been following the recent intensification of the Open Access debate quite closely. I heard of PeerJ in the early stages of the project, in ‘A blog around the clock’. I found the idea interesting, and I followed further developments on Twitter.

PJ: And what were your initial impressions before you submitted?

AG: I was pleased to see another serious journal emerge in the OA field, and even more when it offered an interesting payment model and open reviewing. The journal layout is very clean, modern and refreshing. I particularly like the full referencing in text (author, year) instead of numbering, and the single column is also neat.

PJ: What persuaded you to submit to us?

AG: I am keen to support open access, and explore alternative models to the classic reviewing system. The time from submission to decision was very good and the price competitive compared to other open access journals. The fact that the editorial board is very strong is a very good feature of the journal. Fortunately, my co-authors were also willing to try PeerJ. I really liked the open reviewing process feature.

PJ: What was your experience of the submission process?

AG: Smooth, it makes you feel in control. I liked that you can go back and forth, save what you’ve done and you can check the assembled pdf before submission (I’ve had previous negative experiences of in-house pdf assembly by the journal which omitted some figures).

PJ: And what was your experience of the review process?

AG: Civilized, friendly. These are almost alien features of a reviewing process for many journals. Why should reviewers sound aggressive or antagonistic? I liked that the reviewing process was fast and constructive. I think that the ability of making the reviewing history open will dissuade reviewers to review papers for which they have conflict of interests or they are not sufficiently qualified to review, even if it is still blind.

PJ: And what was your experience of the production process

AG: Friendly and efficient. There were two opportunities to correct errors before publication, which is a bonus.

PJ: What did you think to the overall speed of the process?

AG. PeerJ is fast, a Formula 1 journal! I had never experienced anything like it. Please keep it up, it is one of your strongest features!

PJ: Did any of your colleagues express anything to you about your publication with PeerJ?

AG: I have several colleagues expressing interest and I think that some of them will be publishing in PeerJ in the near future. One of my colleagues is considering volunteering to become an editor. Other colleagues expressed reservations due to their institutions having a culture of ‘impact factor worship’.

PJ: And now that you have been through the process, what is the advantage for an author to publish their work as Open Access?

AG: I am a strong advocate of Open Access. On the one hand, it is more ethical: it is only right that interested members of the public, or those involved in citizen science projects, or any researcher - even unemployed ones in between jobs, or those from institutions that cannot afford paying journal subscriptions - can freely access the science they have helped fund or even carry out (in the case of citizen science projects), in an unrestricted way. On the other hand, Open Access is a more effective way to disseminate science. For the scientists doing the research, Open Access papers will be read more and more rapidly, and also, it has been shown repeatedly that they are cited more.