Scientific journals as an overlay

by Thomas Arildsen

There is an update on this post in update

In many of my posts since I started this blog, I have been writing about open peer review. Another topic related to open science that interests me is open access (to scientific papers). Part of open access in practice is about authors posting their papers, perhaps submitted to traditional journals, to preprint servers such as arXiv. This is used a lot, particularly in physics and mathematics.

An idea that builds on top of this is to build journals on top of such preprint servers. I think I first came across this idea when I read about the Episciences project on Timothy Gowers’ blog. Their idea is to base journals (so-called epijournals) on papers submitted to preprint servers such as arXiv. Authors then submit their papers by notifying the epijournal about its location on the preprint server and requests a review of it. Upon successful completion of the review, the paper is included by listing in the journal (but located on the preprint server). This way the journal offers a sort of “stamp of approval” layer on top of the preprint servers.
I have been keeping an eye on the Episciences project and its associated project Episciences-Math, hoping that they would launch soon, but so far nothing is happening. I had not thought about it for a while when I recently discovered the initiative The Open Journal. They seem to describe the same idea as the Episciences project, just with different people behind it. The people behind The Open Journal have some prototype code for the platform but unfortunately seem to have difficulties finding the time to finish the project.
Maybe it could help realise these two projects if they joined forces? I am going to try to find out if they are even aware of each other…
By the way, both of the above projects want to focus on traditional closed review where I think it would be a great opportunity to incorporate open review. That could perhaps be combined with the overlay journal idea through the Selected Papers Network that I also mentioned previously. This project tries to gather comments and reviews from social media on papers in the arXiv. So far they support Google+.