PeerJ talks to Prof Jan H. Jensen – Physical Chemistry Editor, Author and Reviewer.

PeerJ talks to Prof Jan H. Jensen about his latest published article High throughput virtual screening of 230 billion molecular solar heat battery candidates and  experience as an Author, Reviewer and Editor for PeerJ Physical Chemistry


Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your area of research? 

I’m a Professor of Computational Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen – I’m a computational chemist, which means I use quantum chemistry and machine learning to make predictions about chemical reactions and chemical properties. 

Can you briefly explain the latest research that you published in PeerJ Physical Chemistry?

The latest paper is on molecular thermal heat batteries; they’re basically molecules that can absorb sunlight and store it as chemical energy, and then the idea is that you release this energy again as heat at a later date. The advantage of that is you don’t have to insulate anything because the energy is stored chemically, so you save a lot of money and effort that way. It’s completely CO2 neutral, at least in principle. 

The challenge is to find molecules that can store as much energy as possible for as long as possible. The observation is that usually the more energy a molecule can store, the more unstable it is, so it can store it for a shorter time. Most of the chemical candidates out there don’t store very much or can only store it for a few seconds or minutes. We used computational approaches, where we screened about 230 billion different compounds using a combination of machine learning and quantum chemistry.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find a good candidate in the 230 billion molecules we screened. But what that means for research in this area is that we should switch to a different sort of molecular shape, and that there’s basically no point in wasting time with this particular candidate.

That’ll be the next bit of research!

Why did you agree to become an academic editor for PeerJ? 

In 2011 I decided that I wanted to start publishing open access. Initially I published mostly in PLOS ONE but then PeerJ came along. At that point I was working in biomolecular modelling so my research was in scope for PeerJ Life & Environment so I switched to PeerJ for many of my publications. I think I have nine papers in Life & Environment. Then I moved away from biology and I wasn’t able then to send papers to PeerJ, so I was delighted to see PeerJ launch chemistry journals. I decided that I wanted to help PeerJ Physical Chemistry make inroads into the chemistry community so I volunteered to be an Editor Board Member. 

How has your experience been as an author and as an editor? 

As an author I am obviously very happy because this is now my 12th paper with PeerJ! I really like the idea of impact neutral publishing because I think the judgment of impact really gets in the way of the publishing process. 

When I know I’m writing for an impact neutral journal, the process is much easier because you just simply present what you did. You don’t have hype up the impact as much as possible! It actually occurred to me that a lot of the time I previously spent on writing was actually spent on that part and not so much on the scientific reporting part.

I can also publish papers with negative results, so that’s made me a little more willing to take risks in my research, and that has been very good actually. So I definitely embarked on a few things that I thought were interesting but risky because I knew I could get them published in a peer-reviewed journal like PeerJ. 

Another factor is the open peer-review process. As an author I can decide to have the reviews published and I really think every author should choose that option because it does two things: it makes science more open, which is just a good thing, plus it’s very interesting to read what other reviewers have said about a paper – it adds a whole new dimension to the reading experience. It also, in my opinion, makes the reviewers a little bit more objective as opposed to subjective because I think many of the people who write the reviews realize that even though they might be anonymous, their reviews may appear publicly alongside the journal. As a result, I think the reviews have been a little more civil and a little more constructive. 

As an editor I’ve been happy with the reviews I’ve got, and I’ve also been happy with the support that PeerJ gives in the review process. It’s set up to be pretty automated and I think it works really well. This is my first editorship and so I was sent a really helpful “cheat sheet” of editorial practices, which was really useful!

How does PeerJ then differ to the other journals that you’ve worked with in the past?

There are now several impact neutral journals, so from that point of view that’s becoming a little more standard. It’s still rare to have published peer reviews. 

One thing I really like is the membership model that PeerJ offers. I tend to publish most of my papers with relatively few co-authors – and often the same co-authors – so the membership model is really a very inexpensive way to publish open access.  As long as there are a few core authors it’s a good model. It can seem complicated but I recommend people to try it out as it’s a very good deal, and I don’t know of any other journal that provides this opportunity – it’s a very good deal.

Would you recommend PeerJ to your colleagues? 

I absolutely would. My motto is you lead by example, so I recommend the journal by publishing in it; I think that’s the biggest endorsement I can give! 

Did you have anything else that you wanted to add?

Just keep watching PeerJ Physical Chemistry!

 

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