Journals without publishers.

Sounds unnatural or absurd, doesn’t it? But that’s what the internet is making possible, according to Nature (whose publishers should be a little worried). Researchers are signing on to the crowd-source philosophy of publishing journals without publishers:

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.

“It’s a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals,” says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble, France, who is a leader in the effort. Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April, he says.

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.

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