Interview with PeerJ Editor Andy Farke

This is the first in a Series of posts placing the spotlight on some of the PeerJ Editors and Advisors, to ask them for their opinions on Open Access in general, and PeerJ in particular. We hope that this Series will help expand upon some of the issues that academics are dealing with as they make sense of the transition that is underway right now from a Subscription-based publication environment to one in which Open Access will increasingly be the norm.

Dr Andy Farke is the Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology (a great museum just outside Los Angeles) and he is also an Academic Editor for PeerJ, covering paleontology. We are very pleased to launch this Series of “Interviews with PeerJ Editors” by asking Andy for his thoughts.


PJ: What do you see as wrong with the current system of publication?

AF: Now, there are some things *right* with the current system of publication (particularly in the open access ecosystem), and the situation is certainly better than it was 5 years ago. But, we still have a long way to go. Pretty much 100% of the literature is digitized now–but only a fraction of that is readily accessible without a personal or institutional subscription. Open access is simply the best way to help everyone, everywhere delve into the literature. The other problem is cost–even with fee waivers and the like, publishing can be expensive for authors. The thought of a $2,000 or $3,000 article processing charge is insane! Someone has to pay for publication (whether individual researcher or institution), and this has to be affordable.

PJ: Given your experience, what would an ideal publishing venue look like?

AF: Speed is highly desirable. I can’t afford to let my manuscripts sit on some reviewer’s or editor’s desk for six months (this was fairly common up until just a few years ago), nor can I afford to let it sit in production limbo for months or years. I also want my work peer-reviewed prior to publication. I know that some folks are critical of many aspects of peer review, but at the end of the day I’ve almost always had my own work improved substantively by comments from outside individuals. It’s also great to have a way for folks to comment after “official” publication.

Open access is always a plus–why bother publishing something if a hefty percentage of the folks who might be interested in it can’t read it?

Finally, price is a factor. I don’t have a huge research budget, and I can’t afford to spend lots on publication charges. Yes, there are some journals that offer fee waivers or no-fee publication, but there are only so many of them in my field, and I need to spread my papers around a little! Given these factors, PeerJ does a pretty good job of hitting the “sweet spot.”

PJ:  What are your thoughts about the value of Open Access publishing?

AF: It is no secret that I’m a huge proponent of open access. Open access means that anyone, anywhere can access the work at any time. This hits close to home because I benefited so much from others sharing literature with me when I was a young middle school, junior high, and high school student (back in the 1990s, at the very beginning of the internet revolution). The local library in my South Dakota small town was a tremendous resource, as were the photocopies and reprints sent to me by many kind scientists (we were 45 miles from the nearest [small] college library!). I think about kids today in similar situations–how frustrating it must be to run up against paywall after paywall, having to mess around with emailing authors (if kids even realize they can do that) or scraping together some pennies to buy a PDF(!) or waiting weeks for an interlibrary loan request to come through. As open access expands, I’m excited to think about those young versions of me who are out there, having their imaginations (and future science careers!) fired by the ability to access the scientific literature!

PJ: What excited you about PeerJ that persuaded you to become an Academic Editor?

AF: It was so unique–not just another OA start-up pushing the tired old “charge lots of money” game. The funding model was innovative (and affordable!) and there was a well-considered publication plan. I was also impressed to see Pete Binfield attached to the project. I had worked with Pete in his capacity as editor at some other open access journal, so had complete confidence that he and his colleagues could pull it off! There are some smart (and well-connected) thinkers at PeerJ, and that was a good sign. It was pretty exciting to get the chance to join such an organization at its inception.

PJ: Which aspects of the PeerJ functionality do you find the most useful or interesting?

AF: I really like the clean design interface on the PeerJ website, in everything from the submission portal to the published articles. It’s so intuitive!

Looking ahead, I think a unified host for both preprints and published articles is a huge step forward; this is particularly valuable for fields where there isn’t really a culture of preprint servers. In paleontology, a few folks have started putting their work on arXiv, and this is a great thing to do, but there aren’t many good options beyond that (with the exception of figshare). PeerJ fills a needed niche.

PJ: In your opinion, why should researchers submit to PeerJ?

AF: PeerJ is affordable, peer-reviewed, fast, and open access. As an added bonus, the editorial board includes a lot of great scientific minds, many of the leaders in their respective fields.

PJ: Be sure to follow Andy on Twitter and read his blog musings at The Open Source Paleontologist. PeerJ is now open for your submissions, and Andy and our other Editors are looking forward to seeing what you submit.

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