Mathematicians aim to take publishers out of publishing

Episciences Project to launch series of community-run, open-access journals
January 18, 2013

Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles on the preprint server arXiv, Nature News reports. The project was publicly revealed yesterday in a blog post by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medal winner and mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The initiative, called the Episciences Project, hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers. …

Many mathematicians — and researchers in other fields — claim that they already do most of the work involved in publishing their research. At no cost, they type up and format their own papers, post them to online servers, join journal editorial boards and review the work of their peers. By creating journals that publish links to peer-reviewed work on servers such as arXiv, Demailly says, the community could run its own publishing system. The extra expense involved would be the cost of maintaining websites and computer equipment, he says.

That cost is not small, but it could eventually be provided in part by the journals’ users. The arXiv server, for example, costs about US$826,000 a year to run, and is funded by the Cornell University Library in Ithaca, New York; the Simons Foundation in New York and institutional members.

Demailly says that he first thought of open-access electronic journals that overlay arXiv eight years ago, but the concept became a reality only last June, when he was contacted by the Centre for Direct Scientific Communication (CCSD), based in Villeurbanne, France. The CCSD, a unit of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, develops open-access repositories such as the multidisciplinary archive HAL, which mirrors the arXiv site.

For the Episciences Project, the CCSD plans to create a publishing platform that will support online peer-reviewed journals. Each journal, or ‘epijournal’, would have its own editor and editorial board, and authors could submit their arXiv-posted papers to their journal of choice. The journal would then organize peer review, perhaps using workflow software provided by the CCSD.

Peer-reviewed papers would be posted on arXiv alongside their un-reviewed versions. A central committee (led by Demailly) would manage new journal candidates and make recommendations on paper formatting, but each journal would be free to set its own policies (including whether to charge for publication).