Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interview: Brian Beatty, on PalArch (Part 1)

Regular readers of this blog probably know that I'm a big proponent of open access publishing. Today, I wanted to highlight another open access journal, PalArch's Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. So, I contacted its managing editor, Brian Beatty, for more details. In addition to his editorial and academic duties, Brian blogs over at The Aquatic Amniote (and, coincidentally or not, most of his research involves. . .aquatic amniotes!).

How did you get involved with PalArch?
Back in late 2004 I saw a message on the VRTPALEO listserver from Andre Veldmeijer, asking for volunteers for the editorial board of this new journal based in the Netherlands. I was a PhD student at KU at the time, and though I had a lot on my plate, I was eager to learn about editing and peer review, and contacted Andre. I only had a single peer-reviewed publication to my name then, but had lots of projects in progress, had just finished my MS at Howard University with Daryl Domning, and was eager to be done with being a student and wanted to just focus on getting work done. My undergrad advisor at the FLMNH, Dave Webb, always spoke about how peer review was perhaps more beneficial to the reviewer than the author, always keeping one up to date, and so when the opportunity to get involved on an editorial board came up, I jumped at it.

Ironically, when I introduced myself to Andre, I gave him some background, including mention of my recent advisor, Daryl Domning. Andre specializes in the archaeology of ancient Egypt, particularly the leatherwork and rope, and Daryl was one of the few other people that had dabbled in writing scientific papers describing unique knots that ancient Egyptians used. Andre excitedly asked me, "Do you mean, THE Daryl Domning?", and when I finally understood why he found that interesting, we had a laugh at the improbability of it.

Since then, I've tried my best to be a consistent help to the journal, and as time passed and Andre needed more and more help, I volunteered more and more of my time to it. He has always been respectful of my opinions about how journals should be managed, and it has been a great 5+ years of working together.

What kind of papers are you looking for?
PalArch's Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology is interested in anything and everything related to vertebrate paleontology, including reviews and commentaries, but especially new information, including reports of new specimens of rare taxa that highlight new insights about it, faunal studies or contributions about the distribution of fossil taxa, paleopathology case reports, novel paleobiological methods, and even new taxon descriptions. We've been in contact with the ICZN for years about how to comply to the rules about publishing new species names, and because we deposit printed versions of the journal in clearly identified libraries, all names published in PalArch are legitimate. Though we would love to have more high-profile papers submitted, such as recent studies of hominids from Wallacea (Plas, 2007) and Flores (Heteren, 2008), I am eager to get more submissions in general, and hope to see a more prolific submission rate so we can fully realize the journal's potential.

What are the advantages of publishing with PalArch? What does PalArch offer that other journals might not?
The fundamental reason I got involved with PalArch was because of the journal's primary goal, which was to provide an avenue for publication of good science that might otherwise be too long, not popular or sexy enough, or controversial to make it into the restricted world of printed journals. The idea was simple, and yet at the time when I started I hadn't realized how few journals did that, I only knew I was frustrated by some.

PalArch is completely not-for-profit, volunteer run, and though we are all human and have our inevitable biases, we try to stay focused on the validity and quality of the science, not the popularity of it. There are no pages charges, and no limitations on length or color figures (similar to that of Palaeontologica Electronica). We try to get reviews done quickly, though we've had a longer than desired lag time in publication because we have a tendency to spend time helping authors that are not native english speakers with their editing and writing, which can often take longer than initially hoped for. I have been trying to get reviewers to be more rapid and responsible about reviews, though I think most editors would agree that that is easier said than done. So, one selling point is the time it should take - though reviewers slow things down, we really try to get things formatted and published online as soon as they are accepted, meaning that a publication could occur within less than a month, IF reviews go well and revisions are managed rapidly.

Tune in tomorrow, for Part 2 of the interview. Image credit for picture at top: Photo by Mo Hassan, proprietor of The Disillusioned Taxonomist. Another blog well worth checking out!


Ricardo said...

This interview is interesting and it exemplifies a reality that I am very familiar with... We do face similar problems (e.g. low submission rates) in our Journal as well (Journal of Paleontological Techniques), despite our efforts to contradict that tendency. Establish a journal is a herculean job that sometimes seems to be eased if "big names" are involved or a lot of money can be allocated to design state-of-the-art websites. Nevertheless, there is the hope and genuine dedication of those like Brian that one day our journals will fulfill the aims to which they were thought.

All the best,
Ricardo Araujo

pamella said...
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