By Ashley Yeager
When journal publishers send peer-reviewed tweets, they’ll have truly entered the digital age. They’re not there yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying, said Gene Sprouse, editor-and-chief of the American Physical Society(APS) and a physics professor at Stony Brook University.
Sprouse, speaking at an Oct. 17 physics colloquium, described how the Internet is changing the way scientists share their research. They used to submit papers to journals, have their ideas vetted by other scientists, and then see their arguments and data in print — or not. He said it has been this way since the 1660s when the first journal, Philosophical Transactions, was first published.
But with online journals available right on researchers’ desktop and open-access digital archives, such as arXiv.org, journal editors, like those at the helm of magazines and newspapers, are trying to figure out how to shift print publications online while still making a profit.
“Eventually print journals will disappear,” Sprouse said, explaining that sans paper, authors and publishers could include new types of content like movies and active graphics in their articles. But even with new media features, “what physicists want is rapid acceptance of their paper into a prestigious journal with no hassles during peer review. They want attention for their work, and they want it widely distributed.”
To meet those demands in the new media landscape, APS has developed a Creative Commons license for authors to share their articles on their personal web sites and encourages them to publish pre-prints in online digital archives, such as arXiv.org.
Hoping to merge the prestige of the “baby Nature” journals – Nature Photonics, Nature Optics, Nature Physics, etc. – with the open-access model of the Public Library of Science, or PLOS, journals, the society has also created Physical Review X.
It’s the society’s first online-only, fully open-access journal. The one-year-old publication, which charges authors $1,500 per accepted article, is already comparable in prestige to APS’s other leading journal, Physical Review Letters. The difference is that now authors have an open-access journal to submit to at APS, which is important as more funders push researchers to submit to that type of publication, Sprouse said.
The society isn’t ignoring Twitter and Facebook either. When asked when the society would post the first refereed physics tweet, Sprouse said he couldn’t really say because he personally doesn’t use social media. But, APS, he added quickly, is working on its social media strategy and would “welcome any advice from those of you exploring that realm.”