Re: Overlay Journals

From: Sally Morris (Chief Executive) <"Sally>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2006 08:29:36 -0000

Overlay journals on the APS/AIP model could work in an OA environment, but
only if the articles on which they were overlaid were already peer reviewed
(the point about the APS/AIP VJs is that they articles have already appeared
in other journals).

Some people seem to think that peer review could, indeed, be decoupled from
individual journals and applied 'in the abstract' to some (or all?) of the
articles in a repository. It has even been suggested that this is a new
role for learned societies.

However, I remain to be convinced (and I don't see societies leaping to
adopt the suggestion...). Here are some of the problems I have with the

1) PR is not context-free. Reviewers are not judging, in some absolute
way, whether an article is good or bad - it's not ticking a box. Rather,
they are determining not only whether an article reports a soundly conducted
study in a clear and accurate way, but also whether it is sufficiently
interesting and relevant for a particular (time-poor) community of readers
2) Reviewers don't just recommend acceptance or rejection (in a very
particular journal) - they usually recommend changes and improvements.
Hardly any articles are accepted as they stand. There is usually at least
one, but may be several rounds of to-and-fro with the journal editor before
the article is OK to publish
3) Reviewers agree to spend valuable time doing this detailed work not
just because they are committed to scholarly communication in their
discipline in the abstract (and hope that their own work will in turn be
treated equally carefully by others). They respond to specific invitations
from editors they respect, who edit journals that they respect. I am not
certain how this would work at repository/society level
4) Oh - and who would pay? As publishers have found, managing the PR
process is not free - and editors, too, have to be paid. I'm not clear how
this would, in fact, reduce overall system costs...

So - what's the context for this type of PR? What's the (journal-like)
entity for which they are reviewing? Who's the respected editor who invites
them to do so?

The other way of doing it would be for articles in repositories to be, as at
present, unreviewed but for journals which identified them for Publication
(with a capital P) to organise PR on them in the normal way. The danger
here is that the community's efforts - both as reviewers and as readers -
could be unnecessarily duplicated if articles were selected for more than
one journal. Let alone what that would do to citations...

I may have missed something - I'd be interested to hear others' views


Sally Morris, Chief Executive
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
South House, The Street, Clapham
Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3UU, UK

Tel: +44 (0) 1903 871 686
Fax: +44 (0) 8701 202806
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 6:11 PM
Subject: Re: Overlay Journals

> Chris Surridge wrote in
>> I'm really interested in the concept of 'Overlay Journals' although this
>> is the first time I have heard the phrase. I see them as a way to
>> decouple
>> the 'validation' activity of peer-review from the 'selection' function...
>> All the same I don't know of any good examples. The only partial
>> equivalents seem to be the American Institute of Physics/American
>> Physical Society's 'Virtual Journal of..." series
>> Are there any shining examples out there?
> There are no shining examples, and that's my point.
> (0) A journal that accepts submissions via an IR is not an "overlay
> journal," it is merely a journal that accepts submissions via an IR.
> (1) New start-up online-only journals are not overlay journals, they are
> just online-only journals.
> (2) Ditto if they are OA journals: that's not an overlay journal but an
> OA journal.
> (3) Ditto if they are OA journals charging only for peer review. (But I
> know of no such journal as yet: today's OA journals still seem bent on
> producing a product, a text, rather than just providing a service, peer
> review. Some, however, like the BMC journals, simply deposit the text in
> a CR, such as BioMed Central.)
> (4) Of the c. 24,000 peer-reviewed journals that exist today, if we set
> aside the c. 3000 that are online-only and/or OA, I know of none among
> the remaining 21,000 that were persuaded to unbundle peer-review from
> access-provision in order to become an "overlay journal." (Some of the
> 3000 were no doubt previously paper journals and/or non-OA journals, but
> so what?)
> In sum, and to repeat, the notion of "overlay journal" is vague; if we
> *define* it as a journal that abandons access-provision and only
> performs peer review, there are none, yet, and I bet there will not be,
> until well after all 2.5 million annual articles in the current 24,000
> journals are being self-archived in IRs by their authors. Then, maybe,
> access-provision will be abandoned by journals and they will charge
> (author-institutions) for peer-review and certification only. If some
> will want to call those journals "overlay journals," they are free to do
> so. I would just call them "journals," in the OA era...
> Peter Suber wrote in Open Access News
>> These confusions may occur now and then, but the concept of an overlay
>> journal doesn't depend on them. Hence, we should be careful to clarify
>> rather than dismiss the concept of overlay journals. They remain
>> important ways to decouple peer review from dissemination and minimize
>> the costs of a peer-reviewed journal.
> What's most important, I think, is to make all 2.5 million articles
> OA. Self-archiving them looks like by far the best bet for that, if backed
> up by self-archiving mandates. It may or may not be important, eventually,
> to decouple peer review from dissemination to minimize costs. If and when
> it is, and if and when it is done, we may or may not want to call the
> result an "overlay journal." (It think it's just an OA journal, in the
> OA era!)
> Stevan Harnad
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Received on Mon Nov 27 2006 - 17:40:14 GMT

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