PeerJ Preprints to stop accepting new preprints Sep 30th 2019

PeerJ to offer only peer-reviewed open access journal publishing going forward.

PeerJ Preprints is a free service that launched in April 2013, just two months after publishing began in our more traditional peer-reviewed journal, PeerJ. At the time, there were no dedicated venues for preprints in biology or the life sciences. How quickly has the landscape changed!

When we launched preprints, we did wonder at the time if they would make a lasting return (see “Who killed the Preprint, and could it make a return?” Scientific American, April 2013.) It didn’t take long to receive an answer, which is of course a YES. Now, dozens of preprint “servers” exist for the rapid communication of results across various subjects within biology.

At PeerJ Preprints, more than 5,000 preprints have been checked over by staff and published to date. Out of those, 25% have had multiple follow-up versions created as well. Readers have contributed more than 2,100 comments, questions, and answers, representing > 20% of preprints. And preprints are now also being cited across the literature. We only started to track preprint citations in 2018, but we can count more than 740 citations, coming from >8% of all preprints.

Where preprints fit alongside peer review at PeerJ

We started the PeerJ organization primarily to provide a superior peer-reviewed experience shaped by its Academic Editors. A secondary goal was to bring preprints back to biology. As the community’s appetite for preprints has now been cemented, we too want to focus our efforts more fully on our portfolio of peer-reviewed journals and primary mission. While PeerJ Preprints has been successful and pioneering, the academic community is now well-served with other preprint venue options (and new ones are continuously being created to fill necessary areas, many of which are not tied so closely to a specific publication).

With a sad heart, the time has come to stop accepting new submissions at PeerJ Preprints, secure in the knowledge that having helped lead this approach there are many good venues for authors to use instead. We will continue working with other preprint services and partners to support researchers in sharing their work in new innovative ways.

We truly appreciate the thousands of preprint authors who have published in PeerJ Preprints and have helped kickstart preprinting in the wider community. We know that shutting down our preprint service is going to be disappointing to some, and so we are working to ensure a smooth sunsetting with the following key dates to keep in mind:

Key Dates

  1. End of September 2019: Last original preprint versions accepted for publication in PeerJ Preprints
  2. End of year 2019: Last follow-up revision versions accepted for publication
  3. 1st January 2020: No new preprint publications will be allowed, but the PeerJ Preprints site will continue to exist; all published content will be fully accessible and archived by ourselves and our partners

Archiving and Accessibility

All preprints will still be readable and downloadable with commenting at peerj.com/preprints – to be clear, this will continue to exist and not be shutdown. And of course all preprints are already fully archived to industry-standard levels at Portico, which is one of the largest community-supported digital archives in the world.

Peer review is here to stay

As mentioned, we now turn our complete attention to our portfolio of seven peer-reviewed journals at PeerJ covering biology, life sciences, medicine, chemistry, and computer science (which has recently been added to the Science Citation Index Expanded at Web of Science, along with the flagship biology and life sciences journal, PeerJ).

With preprints gaining popularity in the community, there is still a strong desire for in-depth critical peer review that is both open access and more affordable. What we’re learning is that preprints are not a desired replacement for peer review, but a welcome complement to it. Researchers want both options available to them as there is value in both channels of communication. Unfortunately, many of the largest publishers have been slow to deliver on the promise of peer-reviewed Open Access, and resist unless they can maintain their previous profitability from the subscription era. High-quality, affordable peer-reviewed Open Access publishing is still very much underserved and is a place where PeerJ continues to add value.

For the past seven years, we’ve succeeded at being the contrarians in academic publishing, by demonstrating that a great peer-reviewed journal service can be achieved at a sensible price point. Going forward, we will continue with our mission to ensure Open Access publishing isn’t just the privilege of the well-funded.

Since 2012 we have offered lifetime memberships to authors, which has helped thousands publish multiple times after paying just one fee. Later, we introduced the Article Processing Charge as another affordable option and we have kept the cost to authors unchanged since 2016. Also since 2012, we have offered institutional discounts as well as  major discounts to anyone who peer-reviews for one of the PeerJ journals in a reasonable time frame.

And most recently, this past Spring we established an Editorial Board fund for each subject Section that will be used for giving back to and directly help the community. This new funding is something that will be described more completely in the coming months.

Many thanks to our partners and to the academic community for letting us serve you for the last seven years and for the years ahead.

Jason Hoyt
Co-founder, PeerJ

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