We spoke to Dr Andreas Haas who was a co-author on three of the articles in the Collection (and also wrote the guest blog post announcing the launch of the Collection). Dr Haas is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Rohwer Lab at San Diego State University
PJ: Tell us a bit about the research you published, and why it is interesting?
AH: Over the last decade we have shown that microbes are important players in the health and decline of coral reefs. One of our main working hypotheses is the DDAM (dissolved organic matter, disease, algae and microbes) model which describes the competition between algae and coral for space on reefs. Overfishing by humans reduces the grazing pressure on the algae. In turn, the un-grazed algae releases more dissolved organic carbon – basically sugars – that feeds microbes which then cause coral diseases. Coral disease and death opens space for colonization by algae, setting up a positive feedback that destroys coral reefs.
In the recently published collection, we address different aspects of these carbon-oxygen-microbe interactions on coral reefs. Two of the articles show the use of oxygen optodes to visualize oxygen gradients at coral-algal interfaces and as microbial oxygen demand assay. Further, one of the studies shows how different algae "culture" up different microbial communities and so change the entire microbial community metabolism. Finally, there is a work on how wave energy is structuring the coral community on two remote reefs in the Central Pacific: Kingman and Palymra.
PJ: With this research, why did you choose to publish in PeerJ rather than some other venue?
AH: The complexity of this work means that presenting our studies together will help others understand our findings in their broader context. As this body of work is based on a multidisciplinary approach, we were looking for a platform to present a series of manuscripts spanning a variety of scientific disciplines. Further the possibility to add future studies and expand on the existing collection was important to us in this context. PeerJ was able to provide these services for very reasonable prices. This unique opportunity made PeerJ extremely attractive as a platform to present our research.
PJ: How did you first hear about PeerJ?
AH: We came across PeerJ on the web during our search for a suitable venue for our collection of studies, which would allow us to publish multiple studies from different scientific disciplines and provide open access to the manuscripts.
PJ: And what were your initial impressions (i.e. before you submitted)?
AH: The articles already published in PeerJ were appealing in their scientific rigour as well as layout. Also the reputation of the team behind PeerJ, namely Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt convinced us that this new journal is a valuable publishing venue to explore.
PJ: What persuaded you to submit to us?
AH: From the first inquiry, concerning the possibilities of a series of papers and what we would need to do to make this happen, we got extremely helpful feedback and the PeerJ team made a great effort to accommodate our ideas. Also the multidisciplinary nature of the journal, the possibility to publish pre-prints, and the transparency of the review process convinced us to submit this manuscript series to PeerJ.
PJ: Were the author instructions and policies clear to you?
AH: The submission guidelines are very precise and the web portal for submissions is well structured and straightforward. I especially like the flexibility in the section formatting. It made it much easier to tell the story instead of sticking to strict guidelines which do not necessarily always flow properly.
PJ: What was your experience of the submission process?
AH: I actually enjoyed the submission process. The sections were laid out nicely and intuitive. I had a minor problem when equations in .docx were not formatted correctly in the generated PDF. The technical support provided by PeerJ staff, however, was very supportive and assisted in solving this problem immediately.
PJ: And what was your experience of the review process?
AH: PeerJ did a very good job reviewing the papers, offering high quality, critical comments. Also, the feature that the review process is accessible online for everyone, along with the articles on the PeerJ website, makes the review process more transparent and may provide some additional information on the ideas and experimental setups behind scientific studies.
PJ: What did you think to the overall speed of the process? And what about the appearance of the published article?
AH: I have never seen a publication process move this fast with no repercussions on the overall quality of the process. Also, the layout of the online and PDF articles is really cool.
PJ:Was there anything that surprised you with your overall experience?
AH: The two surprises for me were the speed of the whole process – especially for a project that was as complicated as this Paper Collection potentially could have been – as well as the quality of the visual layout.
PJ: And of course, would you submit again?
AH: Yes, I will definitely encourage my colleagues to submit to PeerJ. The speed of the review process, the fair reviews due to the lack of anonymity, the great technical support, and the inexpensive publishing fees made PeerJ an overall pleasure to work with. Further the low costs for open access publications will allow many labs to allocate more of their financial means to science rather than excessive publication costs!
Thanks Peter, and the entire PeerJ Team, for your assistance on this paper collection and the constant support to enable last minute changes!
PJ: And thank you for your time and great feedback!