Essay. Biomedical publishing: Past, present, and future

In this essay, Richard Sever (founder of bioRxiv) provides a history of scholarly publishing, starting with the Royal Society Philosophical Transactions (1665). He then provides an overview of the current landscape: not-for-profit society publishers versus for-profit publishers; a breakdown of the real costs incurred by journals; the transition to electronic publishing and archiving; and how calls for open access have disrupted the industry. He next postulates various future directions that publishing and peer review might follow, such as decoupling peer review from dissemination. Although I don’t agree with all his opinions (for example although I support posting preprints, I strongly feel that the process of formal peer review substantially improves most manuscripts), I think it’s important to explore diverse scenarios for the future of academic publishing, bearing in mind the need to be cost effective, equitable, accessible, and reliable. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) PLOS Biology 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002234