As of 2021, SciPost follows a “mild layering” approach to journals in a given field.
At the top is a “flagship” journal, with the most stringent acceptance criteria.
This is accompanied by a “Core” journal, with more accessible criteria.
We are also planning a “Selections” venue (not yet active) highlighting the very best publications, see https://scipost.org/SciPostSelect/about
For an example, see the current offerings in Physics at https://scipost.org/journals/?field=physics
This layering allows to offer top-tier publishing venues aiming to replace existing “glossy”-class journals, while offering more accessible alternatives for scientists to publish their whole portfolio of articles through our systems.
We welcome community questions, feedback and suggestions on the current construction.
The discussion here will form input for future considerations on potential restructuring of our journals offerings.
Some statistics would help, in particular the evolution in time of the numbers of articles published in SciPost Physics and SciPost Physics Core. My impression is that the latter publishes a fraction of the articles of the former. Eventually, it should be the opposite.
Could you please specify how the best publications will be selected? Why will they be considered as the best? I am not aiming at changing or criticising anything in this particular journal series, just want to understand the approach. Thank you!
While I don’t have a strong opinion on whether there should be one journal or multiple, I have several specific concerns that the current implementation does not address.
Layering in general
Differentiation of works by separating them into different tiers or different journals may be a useful instrument to the research community. At the same time, differentiation may also have the downside of compromising the transparency of the publishing process and trust in it. I fear the current implementation does not meet a level of reliability that would be necessary to make layering impactful and useful. In order to improve, the outcome of the evaluation should be as easy to justify as possible for any party, including the readers, and the decision making should be easy to understand both internally and externally.
I am especially concerned by the term “mild layering”, which seems like a euphemism. Does “mild” mean that the different layers are similar and hence there’s no clear difference? If yes, why should there be layers at all?
Or does “mild” mean that an author shouldn’t be disappointed if they end up in the lower layer, while the layers are actually very different? If yes, why wouldn’t they?
Standards across communities
Another complication in differentiating works into multiple journals is the need to coordinate multiple communities. SciPost Physics combines a fair fraction of HEP and cond-mat papers. To the best of my knowledge, these communities have vastly different notions of impact. If filtering of manuscripts into journals becomes community-dependent, the usefulness of the separation drops.
I am troubled by the (unspoken) principles behind the concept of layering, construed as a badge of quality. While the basic or minimum quality of a paper can be evaluated through the review process, the real quality and impact of a paper is something that cannot be determined in this way ahead of time. There are many examples of papers whose impact is only understood years or even decades later.
Something that frequently gets lost in, or at least clashes with, this quality layering structure is the mission of the journal. SciPost Physics’s About page says “SciPost Physics publishes breakthrough research articles in the whole field of Physics” and specifies some criteria for such articles. Nowhere in there, it says that SciPost is determining or communicating the future value of a publication. If a publication is accepted it should be understood to have met these criteria at the time. Its real impact, of course, can only determined by future development and progress—unknown and unknowable at the time of publication—not by the layer of journal it was published in.
To me, a reasonable structuring (or layering) of the journal can only be done with regard to form and intended audience. So, for example, review articles intended for those entering a field or short articles intended for quick communication (“letters”) may be separated into their own sections — but it should always be understood that this is to facilitate communication not a badge of unknowable future impact.