Launch of a significant journal

Nature Publishing group have just announced the launch of “Scientific Reports”, as a multi-disciplinary open access high-level journal.

From their website:

“Online and open access, Scientific Reports is a brand new primary research publication from the publishers of Nature, covering all areas of the natural sciences — biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences.

Scientific Reports exists to facilitate the rapid peer review and publication of research that is of interest to specialists within any given field in the natural sciences, without barriers to access.”

This is an open access journal, charging an article-processing fee of £890/ $1,350:  articles will be freely available to everyone under a CC licence, deposited in PMC and authors retain copyright.

This follows in the footsteps of PLoS One and represents a significant move for NPG and, very likely, for journals in general.   This model takes advantage of the fact that “issues” of an OA and electronic journal are not limited in size and can vary up and down:  and can  accomodate all of the articles that meet their peer-review criteria, as they are assessed. With this freedom, the journal is able to work across disciplines, which could represent a challenge to traditional, slower, non-OA journals.  Backed by the Nature brand, this is a powerful mover for change.

Interestingly, although it is OA, the change and challenge that this represents for other journals is really only partially due to its OA nature.  It would be possible, although a little more complex, to have a similar model of a “mega-journal” based on subscriptions.  As I and the CRC team here have been saying for some time, OA is not the biggest challenge to publishers clinging to traditional models for their journals who see development as simply producing electronic analogues of what has gone before. Other capabilities and possibilities bought about by online dissemination and storage; multimedia capacities; meta-analyses; data-mining; and online, open peer-review are far more of a threat to closed, regular issue serials. Open access happens to be part of this suite of possibilities that have been bought by developments from outside publishing – and it fits very nicely.

We now have PLoS One, that led the way, confounding doubters:  Nature’s Scientific Reports has followed and is on course for an Impact Factor by 2013, and will be gathering adherants from now on, so by some metrics the clock is ticking.  What will the other publishers do to respond?