PeerJ author interview

Dr James Meadow was the corresponding author on the recent PeerJ paper regarding the effect of Roller Derby on the composition of the skin microbiome. The paper generated a lot of media attention and has already been described by some, as their "favorite microbiome study".

Dr Meadow is a postdoctoral research associate at the Biology and the Built Environment Center (BioBE) at University of Oregon. As one of our earliest authors, we wanted to know what James’s experience was with the PeerJ process from start to finish.

PJ: How many times have you been through the article publication process before? And what opinion have you formed about that process, from your prior experiences?

JM: I’m a young scientist, so I’ve only been through the process about 10 times. My opinion is that it is always a stubborn and tedious process that has little to do with the actual science I’d rather be doing. The most dreaded part, for me, is matching citation styles to each individual journal. Depending on the citation software one uses, there are often thousands of styles available but inevitably not for the specific journal in mind. In my opinion, this is way out of control and it is not why most of us chose a career in science. In short, I quite enjoy writing manuscripts but I dread each day lost wandering through a submission portal.

PJ: How did you first hear about PeerJ, and what were your initial impressions before you submitted?

JM: I’m a postdoc in Jessica Green’s lab and she suggested we give it a look. I hadn’t heard of it prior to working with Jessica, and I’m inexperienced with the launching of a new journal. At first I was concerned that our paper would get little attention in a new journal, but that was quickly put to rest the more I learned about the folks behind it and the academic editors. And when I learned about the payment structure, I was perfectly convinced. I immediately realized that this is likely how we’ll publish in the future.

Ultimately, it was the radical departure from an outdated and broken system that made it an easy sell, and convinced me to submit to you.

PJ:Did anything stand out for you in our author instructions and policies?

JM: Yes. When talking to colleagues who have yet to hear of PeerJ, I simply quote the citation formatting policy (Ed. Note: Authors can submit manuscripts with any reference formatting - we clean it up for them) and their interest is sufficiently piqued. I have seen this policy making rounds on Twitter as well - no scientist I know enjoys formatting citations or considers it an important part of their science.

PJ: What was your experience of the submission process?

JM: It was painless, and refreshingly so. I felt that all necessary steps were involved without all of the silly interface bureaucracy inherent in certain unnamed, common submission pipelines.

PJ: …and your experience of the review process?

JM: I was blown away to see reviewers had signed their reviews! This was new to me and my feelings on it are evolving. While I was really impressed this time around, I have some reservations that an early-career scientist such as myself might have more to lose from an open review. Be that as it may, I am keen on participating in an experiment that I think will improve science.

PJ: What about our production process?

JM: My prior experiences mean that I have always assumed that months of diligent work must be necessary to typeset an article, since that has always been the case for my papers. Clearly PeerJ has prioritized rapid dissemination and I’m speechless - our manuscript was turned around in a week!

Additionally, I must admit I took some formatting liberties to improve communication of results (like in-line plotting symbols and such) and submitted in LaTeX - all of which was quickly handled and the outcome is terrific! I’m impressed all around.

PJ: We use a single column PDF layout and we put considerable thought into the design - what did you think of the PDF of your article?

JM: It is beautiful, clean, and easily readable on mobile devices. I might not have chosen the light blue background for tables and legends but then again, it doesn’t detract and I suppose we are all allowed style licence :)

PJ: And what about the HTML view? The design of the HTML pages received more thought even than that of the PDF.

JM: Funny you should ask. I quickly noticed that the HTML view is aesthetically pleasing and refreshingly devoid of publishing company bureaucracy cluttering the content. Sometimes one has to wonder if web designers ever actually view their creations on another screen - not so with yours I am happy to say.

As to the altmetrics - the first time I looked (must have been early last week) there was nothing there (Ed Note: Usage data updates daily with a 24 hour lag). Now that I see it, I am beginning to understand the power of altmetrics. It is fascinating (and instructive) to see where people learned of a study (i.e. from where they clicked over). This is great information for visitors to a paper, but especially so for authors interested in sharing their science. Yet another surprisingly nice touch!

PJ: You recevied some great media coverage for your article – how was that process? Did the fact that we are an Open Access publisher help with exposure at all?

JM: I’m new to media coverage, so I don’t have much for comparison. I can say that the science writers whom I wanted to see the release got it from you or indirectly so. The process worked and has been a great learning experience. Also your assistance in crafting the release was invaluable.

I can see now after watching the Twitter response that open access was a big part of the early enthusiasm for the paper. Anecdotally, I know that I am less likely to initially read a paper when I hit a paywall when working at home, for instance.

PJ: Was there anything that surprised you with your overall experience?

JM: Signed reviews

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

My co-authors all liked the idea. I’ll have to see about colleagues - I’m still digesting the feedback.

PJ: Now that you have been through the process, what is the advantage for an author to publish their work a) Open Access and b) with PeerJ

JM: We all want our work to be seen by a) by everyone and b) immediately. PeerJ is the closest I have gotten to that ideal. The experimental payment structure is refreshing and a step in the right direction.

PJ: Many thanks for your time. But of course, we want to know - would you submit again, and would you recommend that your colleagues submit?

JM: Absolutely I will submit again in the future, and I have already suggested colleagues do the same!