- A grassroots journal collects, assess, categorises and ranks all articles relevant for a specific topic/community.
- Thus it brings together articles that are now spread over many publications and helps novices and experts a better access to the scientific literature.
- It differs from a traditional journal in that it does not publish articles, but only reviews them. In this way we can build up a reputation for good review, while also reviewing articles, which normally would not be submitted to a new journal.
- It has a narrow scope. This means that the editors know the reviewers well and can assess the reviews well. This also limits the amount of work.
- It keeps the reviews up to date, so that if new research invalidates an article or shows it to be more or less important this can be taken into account.
- It includes articles of all quality levels. This saves half the work as there is no need to review an article multiple times because it was rejected for not being glamorous enough.
- It differs from an overlay journal, which only reviews manuscripts published in repositories, in that it reviews the complete scientific literature: articles, manuscripts and extended abstracts. This is more useful for the readers.
- It differs from a collection in the greater focus on the assessment of the articles and on building an organisation to ensure assessments are actually made for all articles.
- At least initially a grassroots journal will not make several rounds of (closed) review to get a manuscript into shape for publication, but will focus on (near) final articles.
A grassroots journal provides a clearly superior, more informative review than traditional journals offer. It thus already provides a useful function while traditional journals still exist, while aiming to make them superfluous by making it irrelevant where an article is published.
The easiest way to see how this concept works is to look at the first grassroots scientific journal, which I created for my own field: statistical homogenisation of climate station data.
Join this experiment
If you are curious how this is organised you can read the page on the tasks of authors, reviewers and editors. For more general design considerations and ideas on how multiple journals could help and strengthen each are here on this blog.
There is still a lot to do, the code for this site is on GitHub, if you are interested in exploring the possibilities of grassroots publishing together please contact me.