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Welcome Physical Review Research

This post is addressed to fellow physics researchers:

I very much welcome the new open access journal Physical Review Research by the American Physical Society. It is a step in the right direction. I have great hope in the APS keeping its leadership in physics publishing in a way that journals serve the academic community and not the other way around. PRR aims to serve the whole physics community, subfields being identified by searchable tags. Ideal next steps to my mind:

(i) Gradually subsume the Physical Review journals into PRR (easier said than done, I know, especially moneywise).

(ii) Analogously to the tags identifying subfield, tags should also reflect “importance and broad interest” as now done by the categories of regular articles, rapid communications, and Physical Review Letters (or Physical Review X). A numerical tag would suffice: 1, 2 and 3 for the three mentioned categories, for instance. One could even go for a level 4, indicating the level of papers that would go into highly-selective all-sciences journals.

Present journal names provide information about “importance” of papers, just metadata (metaliterature) after all; why do not treat it as such?

Actually, these “importance” categories lose their relevance with time: if you are reading an article published a few years back you do not care so much about where it was published. Having this “importance” classification as a mere tag (not visible when citing the paper, and which could even disappear in due time), instead of keeping it enshrined in a flashy journal name, much better reflects its value and purpose, providing the needed discrimination of recent literature, and alleviating the IFFS epidemic (impact-factor-fascination syndrome). Authors could also opt out of grading if they can address their community effectively by other means.

(iii) This is daring: allow for a level 0, that is, papers that are decent physics papers, but do not reach the level of today’s Physical Review journals and are now sent to “more specialised journals” (the impact factor would drop, how terrible!). I do not think it makes sense to reject papers anymore, except for the ones that should not be published at all.

And finally, (iv) coordinate with other communities and learned societies towards a connected main body of literature. A new paradigm is emerging, and a new business model with it. My thinking is explained in more detail here.


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