Given the lack of good open access options in my field, I’ve decided to publish primarily on eprint websites, similar to Grigori Perelman. That is, no submission to a journal, publishing directly to the eprint site.
Are there any best practices for this?
I’m concerned about the longevity of the eprint site I use, engrXiv, so I plan to start using multiple in case any one goes offline.
Another concern is the lack of peer review. Many academics seem to think that peer review makes a paper credible, but I see peer review as too unreliable to lend much credibility to a paper. What can be done to satisfy the academics who view peer review as essential? I’m tempted to not worry about them, but perhaps I can satisfy them.
(Note: I think most of the problems peer review solves can be anticipated ahead of time if one is careful, and I do intend to get feedback from others. But I won’t be going through the formalized journal peer review process.)
A third concern is promoting the paper. Many people learn about papers in their field by following particular journals. I don’t know how much attention I lose by publishing only at eprint sites. Fortunately, some eprint sites like arXiv have subject categories which could serve a similar purpose, though these categories are not as specific as many journals are.
I think there are certainly good reasons to make your work available on pre-print servers.
However, I believe peer-review is essential to the quality of published research. If there are no open access options in your field, I would try to look for another solution than not publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
I think it is a risk to say that ‘you’re tempted not to worry about academics who regard peer review as essential’. Most researchers think it is essential and a logical consequence would be that they will give less weight to your research.
I don’t mean to turn this particular thread into a debate about the value of peer review. Whoever is interested in that could start a new thread where I could go into more detail about my view. I am interested in the more narrow question of how to address the concerns of those who view peer review as essential if one is not going through a formal peer review process.
Good question Ben, I’m glad to hear that you’re trying to look for ways to publish openly in engineering. (I’m always frustrated that articles by IEEE are paywalled)
Firstly, I’d suggest checking out https://doaj.org/ for open access engineering journals to see if you like any. Bonus, the majority of the DOAJ journals don’t have article processing charges.
Wrt to longevity, there is currently an effort to archive Open Access journals (see here), and I expect this would also get extended to preprint servers if they looked to be in danger. (also, engrXiv is on the OSF Preprints platform, and I assume that COS has some plans for data stewardship, even if individual Preprint servers they host eventually close).
Peer-review is more difficult, you are right in that it is seen as a sign of credibility by both academics and the public. While I agree that traditional peer-review has many flaws, I think the journals that now publish the reviewer report and editorial statements are more useful. If you want to aim for some kind of review (beyond informal commenting), and would suggest looking into these options:
Post-publication peer-review: F1000 is well known for this, not sure of others (IIRC some ScienceOpen journals do this, or at least allow commenting)
Try to facilitate commenting by making an entry on PubPeer for your pre-print and putting a link to this at the top of the publication (or some similar strategy).
You might want to check out the Journal of Research Ideas and Outcomes (h/t @antonio.schettino). Not only do they accept a huge range of publication types, but they do also allow post-publication peer review and will optionally arrange a pre-publication review. https://riojournal.com/about I’m considering publishing some items there next year.
With respect to advertising, I think you’ll have to take more responsibility for this if you are primarily pre-printing. One option would just be to mail the pre-print to people from your field who you think will be interested (like the authors of recent works you’ve cited, also current and former colleagues). FWIW I feel that following individual journals is declining, at least in younger academics, so I think this will be less of a problem now than it would have been during the printed journal days.
You might also be interested in this thread, which included a few links about pre-prints in the context of the broader publishing ecosystem.
Also, I can recommend the following book by our late colleague Jon Tennant, it aggregates a collection of his posts on Open Science, many of which discuss options related to pre-printing and open peer-review.