Just over 7 years ago I was working on the launch of the Chemistry Preprint Server (CPS), while at ChemWeb.com. Alongside me at Elsevier was Chris Leonard, who’s now working with me again at BioMed Central launching PhysMath Central.
We launched the service as an experiment in communication, and it was not unsuccessful. There were some 8-900 submissions in the course of 3 years. The CPS was closed down when Elsevier sold ChemWeb.com in 2004, but the articles are still available via ScienceDirect.
During the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in August of 2000, The Chronicle Daily (As Experts Call for a Chemistry Preprint Server, Elsevier Unveils Its Own. 22 August, 2000) reported that chemists were calling for such a service. It was lucky for us that we launched the CPS that very day to the shock of many. After all, what was Elsevier doing launching a free publishing service? It’s interesting looking back at this short article now. R Stephen Berry, who recently joined the Editorial Advisory Board of Chemistry Central Journal was one of the supporting voices then, urging chemists to "try everything".
The ACS was one of just a few Publishers who refused to accept submissions which had previously appeared on the CPS.
In response to a recent blog posting by Derek Lowe (In the Pipeline: Exalted Paper) "yagwara" (comment #26) asked "what forces prevent the existence of an arXiv for chemistry," and suggested "If it didn’t already exist and was invented today, Elsevier
and Springer would be introducing draconian measures against authors
who posted papers there." As you can imagine, I felt I needed to jump to Elsevier’s defence (comment #27).
So why am I telling you all this?
Because, interestingly, Nature has recently launched a preprint server called Nature Preceedings, which aims to cover biology, medicine, chemistry and earth sciences. Just like the CPS, submissions will be screened for appropriateness, but no judgement will be made by the internal editors about the quality of the work. This, is the job of the community.
The next step is, obviously, to allow authors of research articles posted to Nature Preceedings, to be able to submit these directly to a peer reviewed journal and for that journal to be able to link directly back to previous versions of the manuscript.
PhysMath Central, from BioMed Central, does exactly that. Authors can upload their arXiv manuscript directly to the online system. See Chris’ recent blog posting "How to submit your arXiv manuscript to PMC Phys A."
Nature is certainly taking what Web 2.0 has to offer, and making it reality. I wish them luck.