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Open access journal: frequently asked questions

Why are you launching this journal?

We believe there is a need for an innovative, top-tier, open access journal for biomedical and life sciences research, serving the best interests of the scientific community.

It is our view that editorial decisions in the current model of scientific publishing are commonly made by professional editors who are not now or who never have been actively involved in independent high-level research. In addition, journal editors are often recent postdoctoral researchers with little editorial experience.

Another complicating issue is that for-profit publishers are driven to maximise their journal impact factors: as a result, decisions to publish are often based on what is deemed likely to generate significant media interest, comment and citations, rather than what is important from a deeper scientific perspective.

How does this journal address these issues?

We aim to establish an open access journal whose editorial team consists entirely of highly respected, accomplished and actively practising scientists. It will operate a peer review process that is fast, transparent, fair and guided by sound scientific judgements exercised by the senior editors and Editor-in-Chief. This new journal aims to provide free unrestricted access to the most important research papers in the biomedical and life sciences worldwide.

How will the peer review system for your journal differ from current models?

We intend to offer an alternative top-tier journal that will have a unique editorial and peer review structure designed to serve the best interests of the scientific community. In particular, we hope to minimise the time and waste of resources in performing multiple cycles of revisions and unreasonable numbers of additional experiments that are superfluous and add little to the core conclusions of already extensively documented studies. For example, we will discourage supplemental figures and only allow their use sparingly for large datasets.

As three of the world's leading organisations involved in biomedical research, we do not feel that the job of research is done until the work has been properly vetted by expert reviewers, published and accessible for all to see or reproduce. We have therefore developed our proposals after close consultation with researchers, including academic editors from a number of well-known journals.

Why should researchers publish with you and not other research journals?

We believe that a research paper should be judged on the basis of the intrinsic value, originality and unique insights of the research presented. We will therefore appoint outstanding academic editors to identify the best papers and to exercise leadership in steering these papers through peer review by relying on sound and fair scientifically based judgements borne from direct and current research experience. In this way, we intend to make our journal - and the papers it publishes - a byword for world-class science.

Papers will be accepted or rejected within a short period of time, generally with only one round of review and with limited need for modifications or additional experiments. Reviewers' comments will be published anonymously.

We will also take advantage of the opportunity to launch an online-only journal - and the open access arena in which it will operate - to ensure that the content is engaging. For example, as an aid to understanding, each article will be supported by lay summaries and accompanied by relevant videos, features and animations.

How much will it cost a researcher to submit an article?

For the first three to four years, to help establish the journal, no fees will be charged to authors. Once the journal is established and we begin to expand its scope and size, we anticipate that authors will be charged an article processing fee to cover some of the ongoing costs of publication. As we progress this initiative we will ensure full transparency and publish details of the journal's costs.

How will this journal differ from other online open access publications?

Online open access journals such as the PLoS titles and 'Nature Scientific Reports' are a step in the right direction. Our open access journal will also incorporate online technology to allow for an engaging, interactive experience, but will be staffed by experienced, active scientists and will use a faster, more transparent peer review system.

Have you discussed your plans with other publishers?

Yes. The proposal for such a journal came out of a workshop attended by a number of leading scientists, including academic editors from a number of well-known journals. We have also met with other publishers subsequently.

Have you discussed your plans with other researchers?

Yes. The three sponsoring organisations held a workshop at the Janelia Farm Research Campus, attended by a number of leading scientists. The outcome of this workshop was a clear recommendation that the three sponsoring organisations should work together to support a new, open access journal.

We have also begun to discuss this new journal with many researchers in the field, particularly early-career scientists, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic.

How will you ensure that the journal is not biased in favour of your researchers?

The journal will operate and be managed independently of any of the funders, with the editorial team making judgements on the basis of scientific merit. Researchers will compete on a level playing field regardless of affiliation or funding source.

Will your researchers be pressurised into publishing in this journal?

No, our researchers will be free to publish wherever they choose, as they are now. But we hope to create a journal that will define the best science and thus be attractive to them and in which they would wish to publish their work.

How will you measure its success?

We will know that the journal has been a success when our best researchers and their students and postdocs choose to publish in this new title, when a high proportion of published articles are judged to be landmark papers and, ultimately, when the innovations around peer review, using academic editors and adopting an open access model become widely adopted by other journals.

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