6 March 2015

Collabra: a new journal that pays reviewers

Copyright Collabra
University of California Press will soon launch a new fully open access mega-journal* called Collabra. The new journal is set to launch in March 2015 alongside a new open access book program called Luminos:

“As part of the world’s greatest public research university we knew that we needed to make a significant investment to meet the changing publishing and dissemination needs of our audiences,” said Alison Mudditt, Director of UC Press. “These programs have been shaped by hundreds of conversations with faculty, librarians, and other key stakeholders. With Luminos, we will combine the global reach and visibility of OA with our unwavering commitment to publishing superior scholarship to create a speedboat, not a life raft, that will carry monographs forward and allow them to remain a vital resource.” University of California Press


Collabra is a fully open access journal that requires authors to pay APC charges in order to get papers published. This charge covers the cost of production, as well as operating costs, staff wages, etc. In most fully open access journals there is significant profit to be made through APCs and these margins are increased as reviewers are traditionally unpaid. It is sometimes said that unpaid reviewing is simply part and parcel of academic culture, however the innovative payment scheme of Collabra proves that this doesn’t have to be the case. At Collabra, the APC costs $875, $250 of which goes towards paying the reviewers. The reviewers can then decide what they would like to do with the money. They can choose to keep the money, put the money into an APC waiver fund for researchers unable to pay the fee, or pay it forward to their institution’s open access APC fund.

“The journal model is not just about paying reviewers but also about directing some of the value generated back into the research community.” Collabra

We approached Dan Morgan, the Digital Science Publisher at Collabra for a quick explanation of the Collabra process:

"By assigning a percentage of the APC for the research community, Collabra spreads revenue and tangibly shows the value of this work, creating a true partnership. Collabra is enabling the research community to decide what to do with this value that it generates. Reviewers and editors can elect to pay themselves, or pay it forward to the Collabra waiver fund, or their institution's OA fund - in the latter instances creating more OA opportunities for more people. We'd love it if they did that, but importantly it is their choice, and not ours." Dan Morgan

Dan recently spoke at FORCE 2015, a conference centred on highlighting new trends in research communication and e-scholarship. His Creative Commons licensed presentation is available for free on figshare here: http://figshare.com/articles/Introducing_Collabra_OA_Journal_from_University_of_California_Press/1305201
Traditional publishing practice sees value directed solely back to the publisher (Dan Morgan)
So, the journal will put more emphasis on the value added by academics, who mostly work for free for publishers when reviewing and editing. By offering an APC waiver the journal can also serve as an open access publishing platform to those “priced-out” by the often high APC charges demanded by publishers.

Collabra will focus on three main disciplines at launch: life and biomedical sciences, ecology and environmental science, and social and behavioural sciences. To find out more about Collabra why not visit the website (http://www.collabraoa.org/), or share your thoughts and opinions using their twitter handle @CollabraOA (https://twitter.com/collabraoa).

*A mega-journal is a journal that has a number of key characteristics. It will be fully Open Access (with no subscription options), it will not judge articles based on perceived importance, instead judgement will be based on “scientific, methodological and ethical soundness and credibility” http://www.collabraoa.org/faq.php#article-processing-charges. Mega journals also often have a fairly broad coverage. A good example of a scholarly mega-journal is PLoS one http://www.plosone.org/

**We extend a special thanks to Dan Morgan and Lorraine Weston of Collabra for providing information and permission to reuse image and video content

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