The future of scientific publishing?

I received an e-mail today, that I almost deleted as SPAM. It announced the possibility to publish in webmedcentral, a novel way of publishing. It offered:
- Guaranteed publication of your research within 48 hours of submission
- No pre publication screening.
- Peer review takes place post publication in an open and transparent manner.
- No cost to authors or readers.

This development is obviously a response to the ongoing debate on the sustainability of the peer-reviewing system in science, and the role of publishers. I a nutshell the idea is that researchers can submit anything they want. This does not mean that there is no control whatsoever, there is an editorial check before an article is accepted and published online. It is not entirely clear what will be checked, but I assume this will at least involve checking whether the subject falls within the scope of the subject areas.

Will Webmedcentral be the future? I find it an intriguing development, but I fail to see the way a transition to this new "post-publishing reviewing" would work, especially in the context of how to judge the value of authorship in Webmedcentral, for example on someone´s CV. Unfortunately, I think Webmedcentral offers authors an easy opportunity to inflate their number of publications by submitting several marginal contributions. The open review is not at all a safeguard for this: people will undoubtedly be reluctant to be openly critical to colleagues they might later depend on to get a job (or a positive review).

A related issue that strikes me as problematic: “WebmedCentral does not have any problem with publication of previously published papers as the primary aim of this website is to facilitate scientific communication amongst biomedical researchers.” This immediately downgrades the value of Webmedcentral to a mere means to discuss scientific output. Because anything published on Webmedcentral may have been published elsewhere in duplicate, its role as a platform to publish will be fairly limited, to my view. Worse, it will promote duplication, as there will be no penalties for someone publishing first in a traditional journal and then on Webmedcentral.


  1. "the primary aim of this website is to facilitate scientific communication" and discussion something that happens very little with the current publishing system. A system that is clearly failing us as scientists as we should be promoting transparency and reproducibility of our work. See this great blog:

  2. Exactly my point, Webmedcentral may be useful to discuss. Great blog, but I don´t think it will work to publish single pieces of data. Unfortunately, people who will collaborate with the system will be punished by those who will not. And without any credit for publishing a piece of data, there is not any (individual) stimulus to publish such data pieces, or (even worse) to publish accurate/reliable data. I see more in a system that forces authors to make available their data underlying a publication (old-style) after acceptance, with a role for the editor/reviewers to demand which data is to made available. This will provide some sieve and quality control.