• First open-access Bariatric surgery journal announced

WebmedCentral, the post-publication peer-review publishing website, is planning to launch a sister service offering a traditional pre-publication peer-review model, including what they claim is the first open-access journal devoted to bariatric surgery.

WebmedCentral Plus is designed to offer a more conventional counterpart to their current publishing service, which posts articles without an initial review and allows the community to judge their worth. The new site will publish articles after they have been peer-reviewed, and will have a group of specialty editors including bariatric surgeons Giovanni Dapri, Stephen Glazer, Karl Miller, and Shashank Shah.

The co-founder and CEO of the site, Kamal Mahawar, is himself a consultant and bariatric surgeon at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust in the UK.

Unlike other open access journals, many of which charge authors publishing fees costing thousands of dollars, WebmedCentral Plus will charge US$200 per article, or US$100 for authors from developing countries. As an open-access journal, the articles will be made available free to the reader.

WebmedCentral Plus expect to be able to accept articles for review by the end of February, and hope to publish 250 articles across all specialties by the end of the year. Potential applicants can sign up to be informed when applications are open on the site.

Despite WebmedCentral’s move into peer-reviewed journals, Mahawar has long been a vocal advocate for alternatives to the traditional academic publishing model. In a submission to a UK Science and Technology Select Committee enquiry into peer review, he wrote: “Prestige of institutions and those of individuals are measured by the numbers of articles published. Professional careers are built and destroyed on these numbers. Removing the barrier of pre publication peer review will… improve the quality of science by moving the emphasis away from the number of publications to the quality of research.”

However, he says that because of the importance that the academic community put on pre-publication peer-review, there is currently a need for a range of publishing options, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. “Ideally, I would like the whole world to move towards the WebmedCentral model and I believe it will solve most of our problems,” he says. “However, the academic publishing world will need time to adapt. In the meantime, we do not wish to exclude anybody.”

Unlike most journals, most article reviewers will not be anonymous, which WebmedCentral say is “in keeping with their approach to complete transparency in biomedical scientific communications”. Mahawar says that they will also aim to reduce the time between submission and publication, which can take several months or even longer for some journals.

“We are hoping that with our twin portals, we will cater to all groups of scientists with varying academic publishing needs,” says Mahawar. “Those wishing to publish in the established environment for obvious reasons of academic and scientific recognition will be able to publish on WebmedCentral Plus. On the other hand those who have an urgent need to get a message out quickly or are feeling frustrated by peer reviews can publish on WebmedCentral.”

While WebmedCentral is not listed on academic databases like PubMed, making it less likely that articles will be cited by other academics and included in meta-analyses, Mahawar hopes that articles published on WebmedCentral Plus will be included in major databases “in due course”. They also plan to implement a system whereby papers judged most worthy by the WebmedCentral community can be included in Plus.