(Update added April 20, 2015, see the end of this post.)
I have been procrastinating for while about setting up this blog, but recent events have pushed me over the bump, so here it is. In the past week about 145 editors have resigned (including yours truly) from the editorial membership board of the journal Scientific Reports, for a cause supported now by over 550 signed supporters and counting. The editorial membership board of SciRep has thousands of members. Sorry for the long post, but the issues are serious.
On March 24, 2015, Scientific Reports (SciRep from here on), an open access journal owned by NPG/Palgrave Macmillan has sent out a letter to its editorial board members, alerting us about an experiment in peer review they were conducting. See here for additional info. In a nutshell, SciRep has launched a small-scale experiment, only in biology, which would secure fast peer review for those authors who are willing to pay for it. It guarantees to return the reviews to the authors within three weeks, or their money back. To accomplish this, SciRep employs the services of a 3rd party, Research Square, using their peer review system Rubriq. More details are revealed here. Currently, fast-track service seems to be set at \$750 a pop which would be in addition to the \$1,495 fee for publishing the paper. It is not clear how much of that goes to the reviewers, I suspect a small fraction (\$100 ?) as the rest goes to the for-profit parts of the setup.
This has led to an outcry from the part of the editors, for reasons outlined in an open letter that can be found here: http://www.peerreviewneutrality.org/ . This letter is also a letter of resignation by those editors, effective immediately. If you are an editor for this journal, please read this letter and consider the reasons for it and the arguments below; hopefully you’ll sign it too. Even if you are not an editor, as a scientist, please consider supporting the cause. As I will try to outline below, the issues are larger than this particular problem, and we all need to be aware of them.