PeerJ formally announced: Innovative new business model for open access

I'm not one for posting publisher press releases on this blog (and embargoed ones at that!) but sometimes you just have to try something a little different. And this is such an occasion.

Below is the press release for a new science publishing startup called PeerJ. It is founded by Peter Binfield, formerly of Public Library of Science, and Jason Hoyt, formerly of Mendeley. The core idea is that scholars will be able to pay one fee (starting at $99) and be able to publish on the PeerJ platform for life. The truly interesting aspect of this is that PeerJ is peer reviewed. It's kind of like a cross between PLoS ONE and the arXiv. To me it seems to resemble what we think of as a disciplinary repository like arXiv in that it will be a large collection of articles that will be at least somewhat unstructured. But at the same time, like a PLos ONE, will also have very strict peer review.

There are a few different fee levels, each with different features, but that is the core idea.

Obviously this idea is incredibly disruptive of normal publisher practices. To make this business model work they will obviously have to operate radically differently from anything even vaguely resembling a traditional publisher. One can imagine that a lot of the functions that such a traditional publisher provides will be left out.

So, you all must have questions? You bet I do. In fact, I had a chance to pose a few pre-launch questions to Binfield and Hoyt which you can read here in a more-or-less simultaneously published post. Most of the questions were posed before I read the press release below or any other of the information now on their web, so I'm sure there are many new questions that might arise. Please feel free to add them to the comments and hopefully Binfield and/or Hoyt will be able to answer them either here or in another forum.

What do I think? I'm not sure really. I'm obviously a huge supporter of open access and as such I definitely wish PeerJ well in its plans. On the other hand, there are obviously huge challenges involved in making this work so only time will tell how successful they will be. I imagine that many in traditional publishing (and their supporters) will have a lot of questions and will voice a lot of skepticism and disdain for this brave effort.

Here's the press release:

New Open Access Publisher Introduces Innovative Business Model - Pay Once, Publish for Life

Your Peers, Your Science.
Academic Publishing is Evolving

PeerJ Inc. (, a new Open Access academic publishing company, formally announced itself today. Founded by seasoned academic publishing and technology professionals from PLoS ONE and Mendeley, PeerJ will publish a broad based, rapid, peer-reviewed journal (‘PeerJ’) and an innovative preprint server (‘PeerJ PrePrints’). PeerJ will open for submissions in Summer 2012, and will publish its first articles in December 2012.

“PeerJ significantly moves the needle towards universal Open Access publishing for all academics,” stated Peter Binfield, Co-Founder and Publisher of PeerJ. “We provide authors with publication at an affordable price, starting at just $99 for life; an inclusive venue in which to publish their peer reviewed research; and an innovative and dynamic approach towards academic publishing in the internet era.”

PeerJ will publish all well reported, scientifically sound research in the Biological and Medical Sciences. The journal will operate a rigorous peer review process and will deliver the highest standards in everything it does. “We have an attractive model that authors will appreciate; a great team who know what needs to be done; and the unique opportunity to take Academic Publishing to a new level. PeerJ is 100% committed to improving the academic publishing process for both authors and readers” said Binfield.

Jason Hoyt, Co-Founder and CEO, explained that “PeerJ will innovate in everything it does and will set new standards for both the publishing experience and the dissemination of research. We will go beyond publishing by building tools to be open sourced back to the academics who make PeerJ possible, as well as to interested developers. We will continue to innovate and experiment around the open access model, and we will strive to deliver an outstanding service to our authors.”

Unique among academic publishers, PeerJ provides authors with low cost lifetime memberships giving them the rights to publish their papers freely thereafter. Three membership plans exist - Basic, Enhanced and Investigator. All member plans confer lifetime rights, and the three tiers allow members to publish once, twice, or an unlimited number of times per year in PeerJ. Each author on a paper must be a member and the Basic membership plan is just $99. To celebrate the launch, PeerJ is offering discounts of $30 off the Enhanced membership and $40 off the Investigator membership until September 1, 2012 (see:

Funding for PeerJ has come from a partnership between O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV) and O’Reilly Media - as such, Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and an Open Source leader, will join the governing Board of PeerJ. Tim was instrumental in helping to block the passage of the 2012 RWA bill in the U.S. Congress (which would have negatively affected open access to academic content in the US) and is a passionate advocate for open, unfettered communication in academia. Co-founders Binfield and Hoyt are excited to have his involvement and Tim had this to say about PeerJ: “It's easy to forget that technological revolutions also demand business model revolutions. Open access is transformative for science publishing, not only because it spreads knowledge more efficiently, but because it slashes the cost of producing and consuming that knowledge.”

And here is a generic Q&A document that was provided to me.

What is the driving force behind PeerJ?

It is clear that the academic publishing industry is about to move wholesale towards Open Access. This is a very exciting time and as a result there are tremendous opportunities to enact positive change; to significantly improve the publication process; and to bring the act of publication into the modern era.

It has been extremely refreshing to take a blank slate and sketch how the ‘perfect’ publishing operation could be delivered. We have been unencumbered by prior business decisions, legacy systems, or established product lines. As a result, we believe that there are several differences between us and other publishers and therefore we believe that PeerJ has a real opportunity to further revolutionize the industry.

The Co-Founders are Jason Hoyt (until recently the Chief Scientist/VP of R&D at Mendeley) and Peter Binfield (until recently the Publisher of PLoS ONE). The idea for PeerJ and the lifetime membership model was Jason’s - he was very aware that the world needed better solutions to the publication problems that exist today, and that rapid solutions were not going to come from governments or established subscription publishers. It was clear that any improvements to the system would need to be self sustaining, and driven by a deep understanding of where the industry had come from and where it could be headed. He came up with the basic PeerJ model and Pete jumped at the opportunity to partner with him.

We believe that PeerJ takes the best elements of traditional academic publishing, and combines them with the latest thinking on how to deliver and disseminate research. It is close enough to established publication models that authors can feel comfortable with it, yet innovative in many key respects (the business model; the incentives built into the system; the open peer review; the preprint server and so on). Taken together, we believe that PeerJ will significantly contribute to an accelerating move towards Open Access - we expect to be at the forefront of a revolution in how academic content is published and distributed.

We are passionate in our belief that academic content can be published better, faster, and more effectively than is currently the case. If we can improve this system then new research will make it into the world faster and more effectively, and that research will have more reach and impact. As a result, society in general (and academia in particular) will reap significant rewards.

How did you and your co-founder meet and when did you get the idea for PeerJ?

Jason speaking: “We first met when I was living in San Francisco and working for Mendeley (and Pete was working for PLoS) and we first appeared together on TWiS (This Week in Science) with Kiki Sanford in 2009. Bootleg copies of that appearance can still be found, and Kiki plans on interviewing us again later this June for a follow-up.

The idea really dates back to my graduate school days. PLoS didn’t exist when I started grad school and I was shocked at the “sticker price” for publishing with existing subscription journals. They really aren’t all free to authors if you start including very high charges for color images, page limits, etc. When OA and PLoS did arrive, I thought it was great, but that we could still do better. When I decided to leave Mendeley to start something new I said to myself that “everyone seems to be waiting around for either the government or publishers to drop costs, so why not just do it and see what happens?” The world shouldn’t have to wait any longer than is necessary.”

Is there a need for one more Open Access Journal?

In some sense it is wrong to think of us as “just another OA journal”. What we actually represent is another opportunity to accelerate the move towards Open Access for all content, and a viable attempt to create a new business model to help us get there!

With that said, we are of course, ‘another’ OA journal. There are about 1.5 million articles published worldwide every year, in 25,000 journals, and even though the academic publishing world is on the verge of flipping to an Open Access model, the number of professionally administered OA journals is still rather small and mostly concentrated in 3 large publishers (PLoS, Hindawi and BMC). In addition, the amount of content being published as OA is still quite small (around 15%). Finally, there has not been a great deal of experimentation with new or innovative Open Access business models (Open Access, in itself, is not a business model). For all these reasons, we feel that there is plenty of room for a new journal willing to push the envelope, help expand the footprint of Open Access, and to experiment with new and better ways to do things.

The past 300 years has been an experiment with the subscription model. The OA model is only 10 years old, so there is plenty of opportunity to improve upon it!

What is your long term vision for PeerJ?

We want to operate the best publication process and build the best publication platform in the world. We want to drive the publication price as low as possible (free is a good price to aim for). We want to accelerate and improve the dissemination of academic results for the betterment of all society.

Like we said, academic publishing is evolving…

And don't forget to check out this post for my interview with Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt.

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