On the Journal with No Name

There was a little bit of kerfuffle a week or two ago. Apparently some rather well-respected institutions (and the Max Planck Institute) decided to announce they were thinking of launching a journal. Maybe. In a year’s time. With no editor-in-chief and no business plan.

But! This is going to be the best journal ever! And you won’t need to pay to submit! Or read it! And you’ll never have to do a reviewer’s experiment again! and did we say it is going to be top tier?!

Anyway, thanks to a conversation at the day job today with one of my cow-orkers, I think I see where this is heading. Mark Walport, head honcho at the Wellcome Trust (about whom I have only good things to say, by the way), hath decreed that the aforementioned WT shall fund only the best research.

And obviously this new Journal with No Name will publish only the best research.

Which means that Wellcome-funded researchers will publish in this journal, and this journal only—obviously, because this is the best journal, and they are the best researchers.

In this way, the Wellcome stops paying researchers to publish in lesser open impact journals (which it does as a matter of course, and must cost an absolute stink), and instead saves that money by allowing, nay encouraging these excellent researchers to publish in the Wellcome’s own journal, for free. Because they are doing the best science, and this is going to be the best journal. And of course, not needing to do extra pesky experiments means they have time to publish even more papers, making the Journal with No Name even better!

What could possibly go wrong?

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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24 Responses to On the Journal with No Name

  1. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Cynicism aside, this makes much more sense than most other conspiracy theories.

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    I went through the desert on a journal with no name, la, la, la, lalalala…

  3. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    …it felt good to be out of the payin’…

  4. Steve Caplan says:

    Outpunned by a Canuck? Never…

    “After nine days, I let the journal run free…
    There were ads and costs and printing and things
    and charges were horrible stings….”

  5. rpg says:

    Don’t mind me, either of you. Amazed Curry hasn’t chimed in with a U2 pun yet.

  6. stephenemoss says:

    There is something ignominious about having a paper rejected by an open-access journal, no matter how ‘excellent’ said journal. So, for rejection with credibility intact, I suspect may investigators will continue to send their best work to N.

  7. Grant says:

    A cynical take, eh? 🙂

    Haven’t there been ‘house’ journals since forever? At least nominally. I’m not sure that ‘house’ journals have same corralling effect that they once did.

    JMB (LMB), PNAS (NAS), EMBO J (EMBO), Science (AAAS), etc…

    Shame you missed re-working Horse With No Name, e.g.

    You see I’ve been through my research on a journal with no name,
    It felt good to be out of the rain.
    In this research you can remember your name,
    ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no rejections

    (This really makes no sense, but I’ve no time to try better. Sorry.)

  8. Heather says:

    Yes, my thoughts exactly. Also the comment about the ignominy of rejection from an open-access journal, which I got over, but it does sting differently. *MY* research IS the best research. Sheesh.

    (To be honest, I love it when reviewers suggest additional experiments. That’s science, even if they are off the mark. What gets my guff is when they dispatch a rejection in a sentence or two which imply that they haven’t read past the abstract. That happens more than you’d like, when your name and those of your collaborators are not that recognizable.)

  9. nico says:

    I think the one important thing that was not covered in the press release was whether the Wellcome Trust would continue funding Open Access publication in other journals. If they do continue, then they will indeed attract some of the best research but authors will still publish in specialised (say, society) journals. If they stop, almost all Wellcome-funded research will go to this journal, except exceptional stuff that will still go to Cell/Science/Nature etc, at least until they build up a reputation and impact factor. They will be swamped by submissions, and I doubt it will do wonders for their IF. I don’t know what OA strategy the two other partners have, so I can’t comment on that.

    I will be interested to see if they can really reduce the time to acceptance, it is claimed by so many journals that they are “quick”, but most have more or less the same time. Reviewing turnover is really important only for “hot” topics anyway, and reviewers know that and act on it (usually). Interestingly, I had floated the idea of paying reviewers to increase quality and speed of reviews in several conversations with colleagues. Unfortunately that idea was never picked up, but I can see why: there are many pitfalls. Firstly, you have to pay your reviewers well enough that it will be worth their time (expensive). Secondly, a lot of reviewers are employed by institutions that might not allow them to work “on the side”. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, you would have to pay people in many countries, using different currencies, and with varying tax liabilities. It is a logistical nightmare, and one that, in my opinion, only a large multinational with experience in many countries could pull off efficiently. And I doubt the “returns” on that investment would be very high.

    Overall, I am sceptical, but then I would say that wouldn’t I…

  10. I’m guessing the response of the journal’s founders to your musical jokes would be

    ‘La la la, laaa, la la la la’


    Probably with their fingers in their ears?

  11. Grant says:

    Austin, very funny – I should have picked up on that one:-) I’m not saying that’s my take on the journal, btw, but that the opportunity to play on the lyrics was missed. (I wrote praiseworthy stuff as my initial reaction albeit tempered on them living up to the promise, as it were. But then it was a very quick reaction, so less time to mull, etc. It’s linked via my name.)

  12. cromercrox says:

    Nico wrote: Reviewing turnover is really important only for “hot” topics anyway
    Not true! I am an editor in fields where year-long delays in publishing are the norm, but that doesn’t mean that people in those fields like it. If given the chance, researchers in traditionally slow-moving fields (in terms of manuscript turnaround) really love to publish in journals where turnaround is much faster.

  13. nico says:

    Thanks for picking me up on that Henry, I guess my experience is much narrower than yours (virology mainly).

    What I meant was that as long as you publish before a competitor who submits after you, that is as fast as the system needs to go. I would consider a year-long delay unacceptable irrespective of field or competition.

    PS weren’t there “Reply” buttons on OT? Where have they gone?

  14. Chris Surridge says:

    Joking aside, how terrible an idea would that actually be? At the moment we have an artificial division of independent review of research. Grant awarding bodies review what a scientists says they will do (grant applications), then journals review what actually happened (research paper). Why not wrap the two up together. Once a grant is awarded there is a continuous assessment of the project by referees who are involved throughout the project and so don’t have to come to it cold. Publication becomes an integral part of that assessment rather than an additional step.

    OK so this talk of being a ‘top journal’ is completely bogus but this would support other ways to identify significant research other than the tyranny of the Impact Factor. Come to that if TJWNN is fully Open Access there wouldn’t be anything to stop Journals cherry picking and reprinting the ‘best’ research published there.

    p.s. this is a personal view which I’m not even sure I agree with.

  15. @stephenemoss says:

    I hope you’ve all given up trying to squeeze any more jokes out of those song lyrics.

  16. rpg says:

    Yes, nothing necessarily wrong with house journals. Back in, oh ’03 or so, my boss and I (at the LMB) were thinking about institutional journals and breaking the publishing system.

    @Stephen (Moss), fair point, one I hadn’t thought about. It wouldn’t be so bad to be rejected from a top tier OA journal, such as, um, ah, well…

    @Heather, indeed, I think there is a bit of a problem with additional experiments, but sometimes they actually improve the work (and another thing about peer review–sometimes you submit a paper in order to get that feedback because you’re not entirely sure what to do next).

    @nico, yes, that’s it exactly. Why pay researchers to publish in other journals when they can publish in yours?

    (and I removed nested commenting from Confessions (only) because I think it’s easier to see when there’s a new comment.)

    @Chris, yup, makes a kind of sense. Although you then run into problems with non-grant funded research.

  17. Chris Surridge says:

    @RPG I was only thinking about the efficient use of grant money. Then again I’m not sure that non-funded research is very well served by our current system either.

  18. rpg says:

    yah–only about a third of research is grant funded. The current system is stacked against the rest as you say, and this won’t help. That’s not a reason against it, of course.

  19. cromercrox says:

    I probably shouldn’t say this, but given that the journal has no name, no editor and no business plan, I shouldn’t be surprised if the press-release was intended to sound out the market rather than launch anything specific. It could be that The Journal With No Name (TJWNN) will never happen, in which case it would be The Journal With No Existence (TJWNE). Think of it – this would be the ultimate in open-access, the end member for which OA advocates strive – you’d be published in it automatically, even without knowing it, an no need for editors or referees at all, but it wouldn’t matter, as nobody would know you’d published it, not even you. I can see that article-level metrics would be a bit of a problem – but who cares? It’ll be the ultimate in volume-publishing vaporware.

    (Runs Away)

  20. Chris Surridge says:

    “Welcome Zero” ?

  21. rpg says:

    You guys aren’t thinking straight.

    “Wellcome Quantum”

  22. Or perhaps…

    The Quantum of Knowledge


  23. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Given the earlier comments on this post, I keep misreading “house journals” as “horse journals”.

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