Today’s mini-interview is with Dr. George Billman, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at the College of Medicine, and the editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Physiology. The journal is published by Frontiers, a “community-oriented open-access academic publisher and research network.” Frontiers uses a ‘tiering’ system that consists of broad ‘field’ journals, with sub-speciality journals within them. Frontiers in Physiology is the field journal, and its specialty sections range from Fractal Physiology to Systems Biology. Frontiers recently formed a partnership with the Nature Publishing Group to handle its open access publishing.
Q: How did you come to edit for Frontiers?
A: I was approached in 2009 by the President of Frontiers, who asked if I would be interested in applying for the position of editor of a new journal they were getting ready to launch. I wasn’t very aware about Open Access, so I was skeptical at first. After talking with colleagues in neuroscience, however, I found that Frontiers in Neuroscience was becoming one of the top journals in the field. After talking with the people at Frontiers about their philosophy and their expectations, I decided to apply, and was selected. It’s caused me to become an advocate for Open Access.
Q: How is Open Access viewed in your field? Did you have any concerns about editing an Open Access journal?
A: The NIH requires researchers to archive the publications that result from their grant funded projects, and they have been pushing for instant Open Access, but they are getting pushback from publishers and professional societies. The American Physiological Society is dependent on subscription and page charge fees, so they follow a hybrid, fee-based OA model where authors can pay extra to make their articles open. They also make all articles older than one year Open Access.
In physiology, most investigators and research scientists don’t know much about OA, but when they hear about it, they think it’s a good idea. The people who resist are those involved in publishing, and the senior management of the societies.
Q: Has the openness of the journal benefited it? Have you had any interesting interactions with readers who would not have had access to the research otherwise?
The journal is still growing, but word is starting to get out. We have had over 950 papers published, and we are seeing increasing momentum. It is being read predominantly in the US and Europe, but we also see usage in Africa, South America, New Zealand, Asia, Russia.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the journal or about Open Access publishing?
A: Junior scholars do need to be careful with Open Access publishing, but they also need to be careful with print. Bottom line, they need to make sure that the journal they are looking at is legit and not a vanity press.
Frontiers is unique in that it allows the ability to track the response to articles, rather than just throwing them up online and forgetting about them. We are also experimenting with non-anonymous peer review, open peer review, and social media-type interaction.